Netflix’s latest original film, ‘Project Power’, completely slipped under my radar, but it arrived this weekend, to strong streaming numbers (it’s currently #1), and is the latest example of a movie that was made prior to most of the current events of the last several months, yet somehow managed to perfectly tap into timely issues. Following the murders of African Americans George Floyd and Breona Taylor, among many others, at the hands of the police, rallies have called for the police to be defunded and dismantled.
‘Project Power’ filters that through a superhero lens, in a world where a corporation has flooded the streets with a designer drug that gives people superpowers, appropriately called “Power.” But the effects are unpredictable and don’t last long, so as in the case of most illicit substances, users have to keep going back for more. One such abuser is a cop himself, Frank Shaver (Joseph Gordon-Levitt). When he takes Power, it makes his skin impenetrable (see: Luke Cage). Thanks to Power, Shaver gets to be the “I play by my own rules” renegade cop that has been glamorized in films for years.
But “Power” doesn’t just refer to superpowers or the drug itself. The film dips into the power wielded by institutions like the police department, government, and wealthy corporations. And while Shaver has both the power that comes from his job as a cop, and the literal powers that come from Power, Gordon-Levitt and screenwriter Mattson Tomlin feel that he is more the kind of “gray area” hero that could exist in the real world.
As Gordon-Levitt told Yahoo!:
“There’s a lot of good, necessary discussion around the power that’s given to police … and how police should be held accountable for that power. This movie does portray a police officer who is not a perfect person, and not following the rules perfectly. Ultimately, I think he’s coming from a good place… I still like to think that most cops are coming from a good place, and most cops do want to be helpful. The problem is that there’s too many examples of these tragic brutal circumstances where it’s not being helpful at all, and they’re not being held responsible for those actions. I think this movie does ask some important questions, like, ‘Who has the power in our society and who doesn’t? And is that fair, that dynamic of power?’ If we could all just be on equal footing and have a more equal distribution of power than maybe some of these brutal tragedies could be avoided.”
“When you look at Frank, that’s what you want a police officer to be. You get this sense of someone who was born and raised in New Orleans, so he really cares about his community and he has real problems with the way that the system of policing is run. At the same time, he’s popping that Power and he’s doing things he knows he shouldn’t be doing. So there’s nuance there; I don’t think he’s a character designed to reflect the reality that we’re in — I think he’s designed to reflect what we wish all cops could be.”
Jamie Foxx costars as Art Reilly, an original test subject for Power, who has the power to unleash super-heated air that can incinerate people and objects. Dominique Fishback portrays Robin, a teenage Power dealer who gets dragged into Art’s crusade to stop the flow of Power to the streets. The cast also includes Rodrigo Santoro, Colson “Machine Gun Kelly” Baker, Allen Maldonado, Amy Landecker, and Courtney B. Vance. Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman directed.
‘Project Power’ is now available on Netflix.