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Review: 'Project Power'

Jamie Foxx’s new action thriller Project Power was the number one movie on Netflix this past weekend.

I missed the preview screener, but was curious to see what all the fuss was about. I’m a Jamie Foxx fan.

Loved him in Collateral (2004), Ray (2004), and Just Mercy (2019), just to name a few of my favorites.

The trailer for Project Power looked supercharged. Lots of rock ‘em, sock ‘em action sequences, explosions and digital effects.

It certainly had all that.

About the only thing missing was anything resembling a plot. What semblance of a plot there is, is covered in the high-energy trailer.

At the center of the movie (notice I didn’t say story) is a mysterious glowing pill that produces “five minutes of pure power” for anyone who pops it.

The problem is that the powers are different for different people.

Some people become transparent, some become a human torch of fire, others can take a bullet in the head and survive. You just never know.

In a few cases, downing the pill is akin to swallowing a stick of dynamite.

The effects are pretty radically random.

While you might think that this is an interesting twist brimming with possibilities, it may be less interesting than you might imagine.

Basically, it’s a device that allows the filmmakers to roll out any special effects device that they can dream up.

Cinematic carte blanche, as it were.

Jamie Foxx plays Art, a former military guy who was given the pill when he was in the military.

He’s in search of his daughter who inherited special powers genetically, without ever having to have taken the pill. Which is why the villains want to kidnap her and study her.

Along the way, he encounters a street smart, motorcycle riding teen named Robin, played by Dominique Fishback, whom he hopes might help him track down the source of the superpower street drug and rescue his daughter.

When she gets a little caught up in the excitement, Art turns to her and says “this isn’t Batman and Robin. That’s a movie.”

It’s a great line meant to convey that what is happening in this movie involves real-life dangers and risks. Unlike the stuff of Batman films.

The only problem is that the third major character in the film is a cop played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt who played Batman’s sidekick Robin in the Christopher Nolan Dark Knight movie trilogy.

Like so many movies in recent years, Project Power is a mashup of other storylines and elements.

I’m thinking of the thriller Limitless (2011) in which the main character (played by Bradley Cooper) takes an experimental drug that allows him to use 100% of his brain capacity.

The martial arts/special ops dad in search of his daughter is the domain of Liam Neeson in the Taken trilogy. It’s a franchise unto itself.

There really isn’t much new here. Except that the pills glow and look really cool.

Project Power is another movie that’s all about style over substance.

More about the visuals and effects and less about anything resembling a coherent, interesting story.

Having taught in the cinema department of a local university for a number of years, I’m familiar with the work of ambitious first-time moviemakers.

I’ve noticed a pattern. Oftentimes, the short, intro film projects consist of pure, non-stop action, featuring young college students in the role of older adults, brandishing replica, University-approved, non-lethal firearms.

It’s a tough temptation to resist. Back in my college days, eons ago, I made the same kinds of student projects on 8mm movie film.

It was a lot of fun back then, for myself and my friends. We had a joyful blast, no pun intended.

I would however never have dreamed of making a big budget feature film adaptation of any of those little films.

Even then, I realized there was no point to them, other than learning the basics of shooting and editing film and having fun.

Scripts were an afterthought at best.

The creative process was more about inventing excuses for characters to run around chasing each other, pretending to shoot each other and occasionally appearing to blow things up.

Project Power seems to be functioning on that level.

The effects are better than anything I could have imagined back in my student film days, but, for my money, even the slickest, most up-to-date special effects are still not enough, on their own, to add up to satisfying movie entertainment.

Unless of course that’s all you came to see.

And that just might account for the success of Project Powerthis past weekend.

Maybe action for the sake of action is all that’s required sometimes, when all you’re looking for is an hour and 53 minutes of thrills.


Project Power is on Netflix.

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