Project Power: An underwhelming exploration of a powerful premise
Project Power's depth is merely flavouring, its comedy is barely amusing, its sentiment feels manipulative, and above all, its action doesn’t enthrall.
The premise of Project Power is pregnant with possibilities. There’s a drug on the streets that’s able to bestow superpowers, but only for five minutes. Project Power like it wants to tow the mood of films like Kickass and Kingsman—that sweet intersection point between comedy, action and sentiment. But then, it’s a film that also tries to do justice to the social angle. It delivers passing commentary on how the government is keeping the whole problem quiet, how heirarchy comes into play, how the education system isn’t exactly favourable to everyone… And in the end, Project Power turns out to be a film that fails to do justice to any of its objectives. Its depth is merely flavouring, its comedy is barely amusing, its sentiment feels manipulative, and above all, its action doesn’t enthrall. It’s a pity because the core idea of humans being injected with powers drawn from creatures around the world seems full of magical possibilities. Picture a man with the camouflaging prowess of a chameleon, picture another with the speed of a cheetah. Project Power needed to burst with the imagination of good X-Men films. Instead, it settles for the security of template, but without being able to deliver much of the satisfaction inherent in it.
Director: Henry Joost, Ariel Schulman
Cast: Jamie Foxx, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Dominique Fishback
The main characters—Art (Jamie Foxx, who does his best to elevate the mediocre material), Frank (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), and Robin (Dominique Fishback)—are all cardboard cutouts. Art is the father in search of a daughter, Frank is the righteous policeman, and Robin is the emotional anchor. All these characters feel more like manipulative script devices than they do as real people. This is why the big scene when Art’s daughter realises her father’s coming for her, feels almost like a parody. There’s no respite to be drawn from the humour too. In one particularly painful attempt at comedy, Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s Frank runs out from the bathroom, pretending to be married to a middle-aged Black woman, trying to scare away some policemen. To paraphrase what Fight Club’s Tyler Durden once observantly said, “There’s a sick desperation about the comedy.”
In a film such as Project Power, you would forgive everything, so long as the action sequences alone are worthy of your time. However, save for one set-piece involving Frank and an invisible man, there’s precious little. The build-up is all there for Art’s big transformation at the end, but when it occurs, you feel nothing. It’s not a spectacle either. The premise of this film deserved more than passing one-liners designed to make the film feel deep. Like the interesting observation that all of society’s greatest achievements have dark origins. It’s an insightful line, but that’s where it ends—and by that time, you are wise to this film’s feeble tricks. It also doesn’t help that the biggest cardboard cutout of them all is the film’s villain (Amy Landecker), who feels more like a distraction than the picture of menace she is supposed to be.
My biggest takeaway from Project Power is academic. I’m referring to the scene where Jamie Foxx’s Art educates you about the powers of a creature called the pistol shrimp, which he claims is more powerful than a lion. Following the film, I read about this creature and found its characteristics to be quite fascinating—a lot more, I dare say, than this film itself.