Combustible Celluloid
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With: Jamie Foxx, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Dominique Fishback, Rodrigo Santoro, Courtney B. Vance, Amy Landecker, Colson Baker, Tait Fletcher, Allen Maldonado, Andrene Ward-Hammond, Mike Seal, Kyanna Simone Simpson, C.J. LeBlanc, CG Lewis, Joseph Poliquin, Jazzy De Lisser, Cory DeMeyers, Casey Neistat, Azhar Khan
Written by: Mattson Tomlin
Directed by: Henry Joost, Ariel Schulman
MPAA Rating: R for violence, bloody images, drug content and some language
Running Time: 113
Date: 08/14/2020

Project Power (2020)

2 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Pills to Play the Skills

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Debuting on Netflix, Project Power is, along with The Old Guard, what passes for a superhero movie these days, during a pandemic. It starts with a fun idea: there's a pill that can give you a superpower, but you won't know what that power is until you swallow it.

The downsides are that the power only lasts for five minutes, and that there could be side effects. For example, you could explode.

That's about where the good idea ends, though. The jumbled, overactive movie is most about its slam-bang visual effects scenes, depicting certain powers (like a man on fire, Human Torch-style), and spends little time on the characters who wield those powers.

Teen Robin (Dominique Fishback) deals the pills to help out with her poor mother, who suffers from diabetes. New Orleans police officer Frank (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) — who wears a Steve Gleason jersey — has befriended her, presumably for some inside intel, but also because he genuinely seems to like her.

Meanwhile, Art (Jamie Foxx) is on the hunt for the bad guys behind the whole thing, to get back something that belongs to him. These three, of course, eventually team up for a showdown aboard a freighter at sea.

The bad guys, played by Amy Landecker and Rodrigo Santoro, among others, are flat and forgettable, and even Courtney B. Vance, as a police captain stuck under the criminals' collective thumb, is wasted.

Directors Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman made their mark with the internet trolling movie Catfish and followed it up with entries in the surveillance camera-powered Paranormal Activity horror series. Then came Nerve, a fast-paced guilty-pleasure movie about the internet, trolling, and fame-seeking.

Those movies were about something. Not only does Project Power not seem to be about anything, but Joost and Schulman seem out of their league. Their junky, jerky camerawork and lack of spatial awareness makes everything look garbled.

Yet the three leads are sometimes a saving grace, and it's nice to see Black faces in the mix. Fishback, who had a supporting part in The Hate U Give, is spunky and lovable, and even gets a chance to rap in a few scenes. She's remarkable, but Project Power isn't.

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