We don’t see Jamie Foxx in front of the camera as much as we used to and both last year and the year before we only got one film with the actor known from Collateral, Django Unchained and Ray. Now he returns in Project Power, with Joseph Gordon-Levitt, in search of the back streets of New Orleans for the distributors of a new phantom dope.
The super-drug, “Power”, gives the person who takes it inhuman powers, taken from the animal world and unique to each person, it brings out your “real” genetic strength; such as superpowers, invisibility or the ability to withstand bullets.
It’s easy to tear Project Power to shreds, the film has an unresolved and insufficiently elaborated plot, the dramaturgy lags along the way, the villains are mainly one-dimensionally caricatured, and one of the superpowers the drug triggers is simply more dumb than tough. Still, we were charmed by the lead roles, which in addition to Foxx and Gordon-Levitt are played by “newcomer” Dominique Fishback.
Fishback plays the teenager (she is, in fact, amazingly, 29 (!) Years old) Robin, who finances her mother’s health problems by selling the new, life-threatening drug. On her client list is policeman Frank (Gordon-Levitt). Frank is fed up with the fact that they are unable to catch the dope hats and tries to “even out the conditions”; thus, he pops super pills in the hunt for the villains.
In from the sidelines comes the ex-elite soldier Art (Foxx), also known as “The Major”. The major is hunting for those who abducted his daughter, but the police are convinced that he is one of the main men behind the dope hell.
The relatively unknown Mattson Tomlin has written the script, which, in addition to packed action, strongly focuses on the inequality of society, that the black population is at the bottom of the ladder, and that the “system” exploits you – so quite natural to put the action to one of the cities in the United States with the largest African American population, and large economic disparities.
Unfortunately, it all sounds a bit hollow when Gordon-Levitt trumpets that he will not let “this happen to his city”, which has experienced both floods and other disasters over the years. It’s a bit like exploiting New Orleans’ suffering to advance the film’s commercial interests.
Couple of Cool Cats
Despite the objections, Jamie Foxx is still super cool and Gordon-Levitt (here while reciting classic Clint Eastwood statements) is his white, slightly nerdy, rap-jawed version. But it is the interaction between Foxx and the young Fishback that occasionally makes Project Power sparkle.
Fishback is then in progress what we in «good Norwegian» call «street-smart». She certainly does not have top grades at school, does not agree with the condescending teacher and is not proud to sell drugs. But, she knows how to deal with people and turn adversity into success. She talks, raps, gets out of any situation and is not afraid of shadows. As the plot tightens and Frank and Robin act as “Batman & Robin”, we are (almost) sold. Fishback is definitely the film’s strongest card.
It is tough that this time a number of unconventional choices have been made, such as letting the boss of the criminal syndicate and the leader of the South American drug cartel take on female roles. Unfortunately, the local representative (Rodrigo “Westworld” Santoro) is just an annoying drug villain, and the many special effects are not particularly impressive from a 2020 point of view. The Major’s relatively exciting past is also completely underplayed.
If you liked beautiful Scarlett Johansson on (literally) speed in Lucy, you will probably find Project Power, despite its obvious weaknesses, more than approved entertainment.