We all know about Netflix's algorithm. It is long-rumoured that their top-secret formula to recommendation lists is used to help break viewers' preconceived notions and find shows that they might not have initially chosen.
Which is why it feels odd that with Project Power, it feels like we’re watching a movie that was designed by an algorithm to construct the most fundamentally average movie in existence.
Comic book movies are huge right now, so we start there. In this story, there is a drug by the name of Power, which gives its user exactly five minutes of a unique superhero ability. Provided your body doesn’t react poorly to it, then you could find yourself able to turn invisible, or become bullet-proof, or control fire. It is a pretty nifty idea, but one muddled under a confusing conspiracy plot.
Apparently the U.S. government has hired a specific group of rogue scientists and drug smugglers (fronted by Love Actually’s Rodrigo Santoro) to test the drug out on the people of New Orleans. Why test them and not, say, test subjects? We’re not quite sure. Maybe something to destabilize and cause unrest, but then what? Again, not sure. Local cop Frank (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) has been using low-level drug-runner and rapper-wannabe Robin (Dominique Fishback) to source the drugs in a fight-fire-with-fire approach to the super-drug-users, while Art (Jamie Foxx) is trying to find his daughter, who has been kidnapped by the scientists, for reasons that will become clear later on.
Unwisely, the movie keeps Foxx and JGL apart for the majority of the movie, so the naturally charming Foxx has to be angry and moody for most of the run-time. Newbie Fishback is fine, but from the on-the-nose character name - she literally says “I thought we’d be like Batman and Robin” at one point - and shoehorned-in rap subplot, writer Mattson Tomlin burdens her with more of the movie than either of the two bigger stars. (Sidenote: Tomlin’s next movie is The Batman, so here’s hoping for something better with that.)
Directors Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman (best known for directing Paranormal Activity 3 and 4) do some decent work on the visual side, with some kinetic and energetic action scenes matched with some inventive camerawork, even if the special effects vary from cutting edge to something out of 2003 dud The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen.
Overall, there is just enough action, just enough thrills, just enough star power, just enough violence, just enough laughs, just the bare minimum of a checklist to keep everything humming along smoothly, never sitting still long enough to really get bored. But never getting interesting enough to really get invested. It is just there, existing, feeling like it was never made to be anyone’s favourite movie. Its real power will prove to be just how forgettable it is, as it comes and goes from your mind in almost exactly five minutes.
Project Power arrives exclusively on Netflix on Friday, August 14 and you can check out the VERY SPOILER’y trailer for it right here...