Filmmakers Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman, who first rose to prominence as Catfish directors and later established themselves in the Paranormal Activity franchise, have entered the superhero realm. At first glance, their action flick Project Power reads like an intriguing reinvention. The concept: people are now able to acquire superhuman abilities through a magic pill called Power. In roulette, before taking the pill, they do not know what capacity they will receive: invisibility, thermodynamics, stretching, even invulnerability. However, there are stipulations and dangers: their power only lasts for five minutes, and in some cases, if someone overdoses, their body explodes. These drugs are supplied by sighted government and medical forces and are sold by dealers like Newt (Machine Gun Kelly, who has little to chew on) and Robin (Dominique Fishback). The latter often sells to Frank (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), a New Orleans detective ingesting the pills in an attempt to level the playing field against the rising race of superhuman criminals. They are joined by Major (Jamie Foxx), a former military specialist on the hunt for his daughter (Kyanna Simone Simpson), after her kidnapping by a government trying to harness her natural superhuman abilities Project Power takes its influences to a degree painful. During a drug attack involving teenagers, Frank makes his best impression of Dirty Harry when he asks, “You must be asking yourself a question: what is your power? When the Major and Robin team up, Robin exclaims, “We’re like Batman and Robin.” No scene goes by without a clear homage to the film’s New Orleans setting: the voices of local disc jockeys heralding local crime updates decorate the soundscape; Frank wears a jersey of former Saints player Steve Gleason; and Mattson Tomlin’s awkward dialogue repeatedly refers to an ongoing Saints game. Such recklessness extends obtusely to the Major telling Robin, “You are young. You are black. You are a woman. The system is designed to swallow you whole. The subtlety doesn’t have to apply in Project Power.
The operation also covers the visual aspects of the film. Cinematographer Michael Simmonds loves throwing tilted angles without worrying about the desired effect. When Biggie (Rodrigo Santoro) introduces Project Power to a crowd of young drug dealers led by Newt, a low angle shot uses the harshest focus – from Biggie to the pill in his hand – which I have. never seen. The over-stylized cinematography and composition, aiming for a visceral tone, does not favor combat choreography. For example, when The Major crushes a high-stakes secret demonstration of Power, a brawl ensues between him and Biggie’s henchmen. During the melee, a woman inside a glass cylinder begs her to escape as she transforms into ice. The camera follows the action from inside the frozen glass prison. Filming one of the film’s most important sequences, when The Major finally meets a prominent villain, from a peripheral character’s perspective, from an angle that obscures the sharp shooter and fight choreography until strabismus of the eye, suggests an absence of visual. discernment. By aiming for refinement, Project Power lacks it.Instead, the action relies on gratuitous violence and inarticulate uses of the handheld. The only saving grace is VFX’s artful work outlining abilities, such as invisibility and thermodynamics, with clarity. These shortcomings are compounded by a convoluted script with no real villain. Between Biggie, a bearded henchman named Wallace (Tait Fletcher), and the villainous Doctor Gardner (Amy Landecker), I don’t know who to blame because neither of them take up significant space. Other small frustrations abound: sticky Protestant beards, obvious changes to the double body, and how the incredibly talented Courtney B. Vance is relegated to a few short scenes as a police captain.
But the most serious mistake in the superhero film comes from the opacity of its central theme: the appropriation of disadvantaged blacks and Maroons for medical experimentation. The history of the medical community using marginalized people as guinea pigs runs deep. For example, the film makes reference to Henrietta Lacks, a black woman from the 1930s whose cells were illegally harvested by doctors and then cloned for drug tests. Other examples left unnamed in the film include Tuskegee’s study of syphilis and the forced sterilization of Puerto Rican, Mexican, and Native American women over the decades.
Spotlight on Netflix: August 2020
The distrust felt by blacks and brunettes towards the medical community continues to this day, especially with regard to blacks who do not believe the medical community with regard to the Covid-19 pandemic. When combined with a New Orleans still reeling from Hurricane Katrina and the racial inequality instituted by the federal government during the crisis, the socio-economic importance should have been given a stronger force. However, Project Power buries the relevant themes under the weight of action muscle.
The only bright spot in Project Power is the dynamic between Foxx and Fishback. The couple develops a surrogate father-daughter relationship developed through a double antagonistic act. Foxx gives even the silliest line a sense of purpose while Fishback imbues the stylistic action movie with a semblance of emotional substance. The subplot involving Robin’s diabetic mother – though it’s odd that a vet doesn’t have health insurance – is soft on the surface, but fades below the monotonous action. While her dreams of becoming a rapper are aimed at legitimacy, the storyline rarely goes beyond unnecessary fluff. Fishback conjuring up one of those strange tangents in all emotional credibility is astounding. Especially considering the end of the cheese ball.