At first glance, Project Power has everything going for it.
Jamie Foxx never phones it in. Joseph Gordon-Levitt has this awkward macho thing going on but becomes an endearing stalwart of the group. Dominique Fishback provides the needed levity.
The backdrop is a former desperate New Orleans that provides a gritty setting. The city has struggled with drug-related problems in the past, and its reputation as a go-to destination for partying often overshadows these troubles.
The “power from a pill” concept is nothing new but it’s workable. Project Power is able to come up with a variety of cartoonish action scenes thanks to its own riff on it – you twist a shiny pill, pop it into your mouth, and play superpower roulette. You won’t know what you’re going to get, but you’ll have 5 minutes to do whatever you want with it. If you’re in a B-movie mindset, it’s enough of a distraction.
As the movie zips from one plot point to another, however, Project Power doesn’t make clever use of what it has. It’s a sci-fi thriller out of a B-movie template and an action flick with no rewatch value.
The cast could’ve been written better, especially when there’s an interesting story in front of them. It includes Robin (Dominique Fishback), who has to sell a pill to pay for her mother’s diabetes treatment. Her client is a pill-popping cop (JGL) who’s desperate to protect his city.
But instead of exploring this gritty drug drama – with a side of superpower action – where the disadvantaged are preyed upon and exploited, it turns its attention to a dull conspiracy story.
You already know the drill the moment you saw the big boss. It’s a shadowy evil organization that wants world domination. The script doesn’t do anything creative with this either and looms over the film as a vague cliche. Rodrigo Santoro does his best, but he’s surrounded by a generic big bad.
The movie depends on over-stylized computer-generated effects instead of fight choreography, compositions, and storytelling, so you can’t expect much in the final showdown.
In the end, the movie wraps up neatly with hints of a sequel. It’s not clear whether the directors have intentionally held back so they can reserve their ideas. But for the audience to be interested in a second offering, you have to make an enticing first impression.
Project Power fizzles the moment its novelty wears off.
Project Power has a great cast, a fitting setting, and a workable premise all wasted on a derivative action thriller.