Superheroes have been sucking up screen time in cinemas for about a decade now. By now, we all know the beginning, middle, and end of almost every comic book movie before the lights go down in a theater. For the most part, that’s not the case with Netflix’s first major superhero movie, Project Power, which puts a fun and fresh spin on the genre.
From the Team Behind Catfish
Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman, both known for Catfish and Nerve, direct the comic book movie more like a thriller than a comic book movie. Set in New Orleans, there’s a new drug on the streets giving people superpowers for a handful of minutes. It’s potent, it’s all over the streets, and it’s killing people. Maybe you’ll gain invisibility or super strength or explode from too much power. It’s dangerous, which is why three exceptional anti-heroes, played by Jamie Foxx, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and Dominique Fishback, join forces to take down the powerful men and women flooding the streets with the in-demand drug.
Doesn’t that sound more like a crime movie with a twist than a superhero movie with a twist? That’s how Project Power plays. It’s a thriller first, superhero movie second. Imagine a movie like Get Carter if a superpowered drug was thrown into the mix. As a thriller, Project Power is effective. Now as a superhero movie, Project Power is exceptional.
Often missing in a superhero movie is a real sense of moral ambiguity in the heroes. Maybe the hero has a few flaws, but they’re still smiley, cracking jokes, and desperately trying to charm audiences all over the world. That’s not the case here. The three stars all play characters with real conflict, flaws, and strong motives. There’s no overwhelming sense of nobility or heroism, at least not until the end. They’re just doing what they gotta do, sometimes at the cost and risk of others. They’re not always doing the right, heroic thing.
One of Jamie Foxx’s Best Movie Star Performances
Jamie Foxx gives one of his most low-key charismatic performances in Project Power. Foxx is one of those movie stars who doesn’t disappear much in movies. You know you’re watching Jamie Foxx, as fun as he usually is on-screen. In the Netflix movie, however, Foxx is the Major, a man involuntarily injected with powers searching for his daughter. Foxx doesn’t always have the best material to work with, but here, he plays an anti-hero with substance, nuance, and coolness. All those factors combined with Foxx’s charisma? It adds up to a very entertaining performance. Foxx’s charisma is matched by Gordon-Levitt and Fisback.
The characters are as entertaining as the varied action, which is clever, personal, and sizable in scale. The action across the board is impressive. There’s one action scene set during an auction, in which Foxx’s character fights his way through a gang as a woman experiencing the pain of her icey power watches it unfold in a contained space. Joost, Schulman, and their team find legit unique angles to shoot their action from.
If Project Power does become too much like every other superhero movie, it’s the last 20 minutes or so. When action takes over and there’s a ton of CGI in frame, there’s just not a whole lot of surprises or fun left anymore. Most of Project Power is fresh and original enough to stand out, but in the end, turns conventional and becomes less of a crime film and more of a superhero movie.
A Much Needed Popcorn Movie This Summer
Although Project Power loses some excitement towards the end, most of it is a blast from Netflix. The streaming giant’s action movies are extremely hit and miss, but Project Power is one of their rare action movies with fun, a personality of its own, and a lot of color and life when it comes to style. Too many Netflix movies are drained of color, but set in New Orleans, Project Power is often damn good eye candy. Mic some popcorn and enjoy the simple, clever pleasures of Netflix’s latest.