It’s as good a time as any to question the power structures that condemn those who lack it. Only, in Netflix’s newest film, Project Power, power is not simply the complex intangible structure which binds us but, quite literally, the name of a mysterious pill circulating the streets. The film sets itself up as mysteriously as the pill. Is it a thriller? Does it belong to the realm of superhero movies? How does the pill actually work? Despite the myriad questions that arise along its course, Project Power is consistently compelling and, quite frankly, entertaining.
Co-directors Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman’s story transports us to present-day New Orleans, where young dealer Robin (Dominique Fishback) is pushing an elusive new drug. Depending on the users’ trip, it genetically mutates their body for a concise five minutes. Ostensibly, the user gambles with fate every time they use it (which more often than not perfectly serves Project Power’s plot). One of Robin’s more unlikely customers is New Orleans cop Frank (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), who deems that his use of the drug to keep his city safe is a mere levelling of the playing field. Thanks to Art (Jamie Foxx), they soon realise that the drug’s clinical trials are more devious than meets the eye and part of an international power network.
It’s a relatively familiar high concept which leans on a hyper-stylised (but not exactly stylish) music video- and video game-like aesthetic. The film’s sensory overload throws its viewers immediately into the trip. Once the video-game aesthetic segues into the background, a rich psychological tapestry emerges in the foreground, in part due to Mattson Tomlin’s wonderful script. The stretches of imagination needed to buy into the plot allow an in-depth exploration of thoroughly modern questions.
Needless to say, the film has star power with Gordon-Levitt and Foxx at its core. But Fishback is effortlessly situated between the Hollywood heavyweights. Not only does her character arc set Project Power apart from the male-dominated genre, but her chemistry paves the path to the film’s heart. Their dynamic gives the world a genuine scope and even its loftier concepts are grounded by the carefully considered characters.
Ultimately, those who are wary of the film’s proximity to the superhero genre should not be put off. Rather, Project Power turns the drug-heist thriller on its head with its genuinely tender heart.
Project Power is released digitally on demand on 14th August 2020.
Watch the trailer for Project Power here: