Christopher Nolan’s sci-fi drama odyssey “Tenet” released internationally this past weekend, a film that was supposed to be the big blockbuster feature to reopen movie theaters across the United States.
Instead, Warner Brothers is slated to release the film on Labor Day weekend after pushing it back several times throughout the summer, leaving a gaping hole in the action-adventure genre that usually dominates June, July and August.
Streaming services have stepped up to the plate, giving audiences films that were supposed to supplement movies like “Top Gun: Maverick” (delayed until Christmas 2020), “Fast and Furious 9” (moved to April 2021) and “Black Widow” (pushed to November 2020).
Now Netflix Original movies like Chris Hemsworth’s “Extraction,” Mark Wahlberg’s “Spenser Confidential” and Charlize Theron’s “The Old Guard” have received prominent, uncontested opportunities to dominate the action conversation and propel the start of new franchises.
The latest in the line of upstart genre fodder, “Project Power,” dropped on the streaming service last week and features Oscar-winner Jamie Foxx and “Inception” star Joseph Gordon-Levitt in a dark, violent superhero origin story set in New Orleans that wouldn’t shine in normal times, but has stayed at the top of viewers’ Netflix queues for the better part of two weeks now.
“Project Power” blends Bradley Cooper’s 2011 film “Limitless” with a variety of dark superhero films to create a fantastic premise for a movie that doesn’t quite live up to its potential for cinematic extravagance with depth of character.
A lone New Orleans police officer and former soldier work with a teenage drug dealer to find the source of a strange new drug on the market in the Bayou that imbues whoever takes it with a different superpower lasting five minutes.
Foxx is solid as ever as the former soldier on a relentless mission, playing anti-hero quite well with an alluring charm and no-nonsense physicality required in blockbuster action fodder. His character’s limited backstory is intentionally vague at the outset, but Foxx languishes in the mundane rather than creating his own character beyond the page.
Likewise, Gordon-Levitt is likeable but largely forgettable as the renegade cop bending the rules to even the playing field with the bad guys. There are a couple of entertaining moments that allow the veteran actor to showcase his acting and fighting skills, but it’s clear co-directors Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman don’t have a knack for working with actors.
The film’s best performance by a large margin comes from Dominique Fishback, who takes the largely generic role of teenage lookout/informant and brings a real sense of purpose and emotion to the part, often outclassing her more famous on-screen partners in scenes with a genuine passion for the moment.
A significant portion of the budget was spent on lavish cinematography from Michael Simmonds and high-quality special effect to showcase the powers in the film, but not every sequence lands properly.
Because so much of the film is set at night, there’s a difficulty Joost and Schulman find in presenting the full potential of the powers in a darkened haze and it often gives the abilities an almost laughable blandness.
At other times, the film is quite striking – especially during a mid-film bank heist sequence – and draws audiences back into the middling storyline.
While not game-changing or exceptional in any particular way, “Project Power” is infinitely watchable, which makes it a perfect fit for streaming services filled with casual watchers who will discount its structural and screenplay flaws and simply enjoy the relative chaos.
Until a way is made for audiences to return safely to the theatrical experience in large numbers, more films like this will find their way into the cinematic sphere of relevance.
“Project Power” is like so many other on-demand releases to come out in 2020 that would be massive disappointments in theaters but worth giving a shot to on Netflix, who will gladly capitalize on the additional eyeballs to generate revenue and sequel opportunities.