As film fans, there’s always a handful of films that we allow to pass us by. This usually isn’t at all indicative of their quality – sometimes, we’re just a little Late To The Party.

Netflix’s approach to releasing its original content is often quite understated, and Project Power was no exception. With an incredibly limited marketing push, it landed on the streaming platform in 2020 to very little fanfare. Despite a good premise, two big-name stars, and a mostly positive critical reception, it went largely unnoticed.

Project Power stars Dominique Fishback as Robin, a teenage drug dealer in near-future New Orleans. While selling a mysterious new drug called Power – which infuses the user with 5 minutes of a random and unique superpower – she meets kind-hearted renegade police officer Frank (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) and the frighteningly intense Art (Jamie Foxx). The three of them uncover a conspiracy with Art’s missing daughter at its heart, and set about trying to save New Orleans from the chaos caused by the spread of Power.

The whole idea of a temporary drug-induced random superpower really deserves to be considered as a genius movie premise in its own right. What’s more, the gritty backdrop of urban New Orleans serves as an interesting setting for the story. Bolstered by two massively recognizable movie stars, it’s more than a little odd that Project Power didn’t earn louder praise from critics or audiences alike.

Project Power Is Surprisingly Deep And Well-Made For An Off-Brand Superhero Movie

Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Frank and Dominique Fishback as Robin in Project Power (2020)

As with any superhero (or superhero-adjacent) movie, passable special effects are vital. Thankfully, Project Power‘s are better than passable – they’re downright impressive. Digital effects are unavoidable in a film of Project Power‘s nature, but it carries them off organically. Crucially, they remain consistent with the film’s overall dark and colorfully gritty aesthetic.

Good chemistry between Project Power‘s core cast keeps its story afloat during weaker moments, but its narrative generally builds to paint an interesting picture of the film’s world. Parallels are drawn between the spread of Power throughout impoverished communities and Hurricane Katrina. The indifference of city officials is also used to embrace this deeper idea, also touching on themes of institutional racism.

By embracing this difficult social commentary, Project Power proves potentially controversial. However, it actually establishes it as a film with a genuine purpose, rather than a cash-in on the superhero genre. It pulls no punches, and though heavy-handed at times, it seemingly seeks to empower its audience. Though it may be far from perfect, Project Power is deceptively deep and far better than its non-existent reputation suggests.

Rating: 70%

Summary: A fun, darker take on the more traditional iterations of modern superhero stories. The depth of Project Power‘s story and solid turns from its stars make it effortlessly enjoyable and quietly innovative.

Highlight: Fishback’s performance as Robin stands out even among Project Power‘s more seasoned actors, perfectly blending sympathy and relatability.