Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman direct Jamie Foxx, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Dominique Fishback in this superhero actioner where three unlikely heroes try to stop a shadowy cabal from flooding New Orleans with a drug that gives any user five minutes of unique superpowers.
Joost and Schulman have directed two of the most unsung seminal thrillers of the last decade; Catfish and Nerve. Both movies are set in milieus that understand how millennials use ever evolving social media, apps and mobile devices. They may not be perfect entertainments but they feel more naturally current than most try hards and stuck in the past wannabes. Project Power often fails to match that scrappy attuned vision to the cutting edge. It feels like a poor man’s X-Men spin off that has been smothered in bludgeoning attempts to be hip and with it. Set in a world where it is an outright injustice if kids are called out for using their cells during class and where dreaming to be a hip-hop star is more important than not dealing drugs. It is a clunky fantasy over reality paradigm that gets in the way of the thrills. The actual concept of the film is robust. A couple of the confrontations the magic pills cause are spirited but the imagination of the set pieces never rises beyond ‘what if this power faced off against that mutation?’ Never even raising the stakes to what if multiple strengths teamed up together or against one. It is always an unwavering one-on-one. And of those ‘ones’, only Joseph Gordon Levitt plays a naturally likeable protagonist. If we were just following his rookie cop (isn’t he forty?) as he used the drugs to stop the drugs I’d say this would be a pretty decent Netflix Original. But he has to share two thirds of his game time with the always unbelievable Foxx and a very mature high school student (isn’t she thirty?). Their subplots are desperately trying to be on trend rather than having JGL’s natural chill to energise them. It becomes very easy to light up your phone and side eye the action when he isn’t onscreen.
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