Review: Project Power (2020)

Directors: Henry Joost, Ariel Schulman
Screenwriter: Mattson Tomlin
Starring: Jamie Foxx, Dominique Fishback, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Rodrigo Santoro, Amy Landecker
Genres: Action/Adventure, Sci-fi/Fantasy, Drama
MPAA Rating: Rated R for violence including bloody images, some language, and drug content
Release Date: 8/14/20 (Streaming)
Where to Watch: Netflix
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 60%
Runtime: 1 hour, 53 minutes

Project Power is the sort of movie that needs to be seen in theaters, but seeing as nearly all theaters were closed when it was released, it made sense to do so through Netflix. Although, to be fair, despite the film’s expensive special effects and high-watt stars like Jamie Foxx and Joseph Gordon-Levitt, the quality might not have been high enough to warrant a theatrical release.  But, at least we did have one fairly exciting, entertaining popcorn movie to watch over the summer. 

Power is, to put it simply, a rated-R, more fantastical version of the Bradley Cooper-starring film Limitless. Like in the previous film, in this one, there’s a magical pill that can give you special abilities; in the case of Limitless, it increases your intelligence exponentially.  And, in this case, it may either give you powers (for a short period of time) or cause you to blow up. So, as you can imagine, this film is much bloodier and doesn’t skimp on the violence by any means. There’s also no shortage of action, and we specifically chose this film to watch on our new, fancy, HD TV, which was a good fit for that very reason; the cinematography and visual effects looked outstanding. I would be surprised if it wasn’t considered in technical categories at next year’s Oscars (if they happen). 

It’s great to see Foxx back in a leading role, although despite a committed performance, I didn’t feel as though I knew or understood his character all that much. He spends the majority of the film missing her daughter, and he does talk about her far too much. Thankfully, newcomer Dominique Fishback brings such much-needed freshness and energy — and amazing rapping, with lyrics written by Chika — and her scenes with Foxx are among the best in the film. Fishback is about a decade older than the drug-dealing teenager she’s portraying, but she’s convincing nonetheless. I’m excited to see where she goes next. 

Then, there’s the always-likable Gordon-Levitt, whose character was still unfamiliar to me by the end of the film, despite his relatively high screen time. Rodrigo Santoro (Westfield) and Amy Landecker (Transparent; also Bradley Whitford’s wife) show up as highly standard villains whose motives seem to be pure power — hackneyed, to be sure, but in this type of movie, it suffices. 

However, with a concept so innovative and fascinating, you’d think that it would have more substance than it does. But, at least it fills the movie popcorn quotient [probably for the year, as the big-budget movies mostly got pushed to next year].