Although it was first released in August of 2020, I just recently caught Netflix’s film Project Power and was intrigued by its action-packed storyline.
Starring big names like Jamie Foxx and Joseph Gordon-Levitt, the plot involves recently developed pills that give their users unpredictable superpowers, but only for five minutes at a time. The film explains that the pills are derived from evolutionary developments found in animals, such as a cheetah’s speed or a chameleon’s ability to change colors. The pills are sold on the street by drug dealers for astronomical prices with the tantalizing concept of “what’s your power?” since every user’s outcome is different, and there’s no way to know what it will be until you’ve taken a pill.
The downside, because all things that seem too good to be true must have a downside, is that there’s the very real chance that the pill will overload your synapses and kill you, often instantly. So, would you take a pill if you knew that you had a chance at being extraordinary for five minutes, but that death was a real and palpable risk?
As a big comic book fan, I was instantly fascinated by the implications of Project Power’s plot. If you grew up reading about superheroes and supervillains, you’ve no doubt spent some amount of time thinking about what you’d do if you had certain superpowers. Imagine the things you could do if you took a pill and, for five minutes, could be more or less invisible? Or could have super strength? Or be bulletproof? The possibilities are endless, and we get a good idea of this from the film.
Of course, every story needs an antagonist and, in this one, we learn that the company that produced these pills has released them to the streets of New Orleans in order to use its users as real-time test subjects. Clearly, the pill isn’t perfect, and its developers aren’t bothered by the death and destruction that effects its users.
In a role somewhat similar to the one he played in Nolan’s Dark Knight movies, Gordon-Levitt plays the part of a cop who genuinely cares about his city and becomes dedicated to stopping the development and distribution of the pill. He teams up with both Foxx and an unlikely sidekick in the form of a young, Black schoolgirl named Robin who has been selling the pill on the street to help pay for her mom’s medical bills.
Dominique Fishback as Robin
The part of Robin is played by actress Dominique Fishback, who gives an outstanding and believable performance in a film where extraordinary things are happening. A common theme in Project Power is characters who are doing the wrong things for the right reasons, often out of necessity, and Fishback’s character is perhaps the most real and relatable version of that. Robin is a poster child for young, Black females growing up in the poorest neighborhoods of the south. Although a bright girl and a talented rapper, she finds that she must turn to crime to help her mom, who doesn’t have health insurance. Even amidst the supernatural chaos of the film, Foxx’s character encourages her to rise above what society has handed her in an excellent subplot.
Despite some unbelievable moments typical of this genre of film, and a few somewhat predictable plot points, I found this film to be engaging from beginning to end. If there’s any real negative to be had, it’s that the filmmakers almost tried to fit too much into a two-hour movie, and it perhaps would’ve been better served as a miniseries. Or perhaps that’s just me wishing that there were more to watch about the riveting world developed here.