Power has always been a subject surrounded by questions. What gives you power? How much power should one person have? What’s the best way to use power when it’s given to you? In Netflix’s latest sci-fi action film, “Project Power” those exact questions are examined through the form of a pill being sold around the streets of New Orleans as a new type of drug. The pill gives whoever takes it power for a short amount of time, but the power is a bit unpredictable and sometimes is even fatal.
In the beginning of the film, audiences are introduced to a group of power-hopefuls who are tasked with selling this new drug of sorts, and it seems that everyone in NOLA from criminals to cops are out to get their hands on it. One of those cops coping the pills for himself, Frank (Joseph Gordon Levitt) seems to be a good guy—and he is, but in his own words, the criminals taking the power are taking out cops left and right, and he’s simply trying to “even the playing field.”
“Ultimately this is a guy who cares about his hometown and the people in it. He’s a cop and someone who has playing by the rules adherent to the way that the world works, and over the course of the movie, he sort of gets upended,” says Gordon-Levitt. “His understanding and his faith in those systems and those structures that are supposed to make the world right—he sees, ‘oh wow, there’s some corruption here that I wasn’t expecting.’ So, he ends up having to break some rules in order to honor what he truly believes is the higher good.”
That moral see-saw of sorts that blurs the line between good and bad is ultimately examined through a few characters in “Project Power.” For example, Jamie Foxx’s character Art kidnaps and even kills people, but does so in the hopes of saving his daughter and ultimately stopping evil forces. Art is truly put to the test when he comes in contact with Robin (Dominique Fishback), a strong-willed teen who’s rapping skills are only surpassed by her strength to be in a world full of pills, criminals and blood. For Fishback, this role was a dream come true.
“I didn’t think Robyn could be as great of a character as she was—I really truly didn’t expect it, especially in the Sci-Fi and action genre,” explains Fishback. “I had always loved movies like ‘Man on Fire’ with Denzel Washington and Dakota Fanning and hoped and prayed one day that I would be able to do a role like that. I just got so lucky that not only do I have that type of role, but I get to do it with Jamie Foxx and Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and she also gets to save them too. She’s not like a damsel in distress. She uses her mind, she’s super-smart, daring and all of the things that you would want a young girl to be.”
The story seems to heat up right from the start (literally, just ask Machine Gun Kelly’s character) and does not slow down from then on out. But behind the explosions, gunshots and action there are more moral examinations going on, specifically with the idea of superheroes and what exactly that phrase means.
“Helping other people—I know it sounds simple, but it’s a little too rare in our world,” says Gordon-Levitt when asked what a superhero is to him. “That’s human nature, we all have to look out for ourselves and we all want to survive, but it’s really worth honoring and celebrating anybody who’s going to really reach out and help and put themselves on the line in order to help someone else.”
“I think Robin shows us that it doesn’t have to be some supernatural power or pill, just your convictions and who you are inside,” adds Fishback. “She has really strong will power not to engage in it, but also finding her voice and believing somebody when they say I see you and you can do this. I think it’s another power in itself to listen to somebody’s words and say, ‘okay you believe in me and I can do it too,’ as opposed to being like, ‘you’re just saying that,’ then going another way.”
The backdrop for “Project Power” travels down south to the city of New Orleans, and to get into the mindset of the cultural hotspot that is NOLA, Fishback went to lengths to truly help make her role authentic. As a spoken word poet, the young actress took the time to delve into the vernacular.
“New Orleans just has a vibe and has so many beautiful things to see, and also, the accents,” says Fishback. “I was really excited to tap into my ability to take on the accents. I went to the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts and I got to talk to ten girls with my phone out and voice memo them speaking to me, introducing themselves and then went through the whole script and all of Robin’s scenes and said can you say this line for me? How would you say this? Do you use that word or what word or phrase would you use? So anytime you hear like a slang it’s because I talked to those girls and I really wanted to honor them.”
Gordon-Levitt also made an interesting point about why The Big Easy proves to be a prime location to showcase a story centering on the will, limits and moral compass of human beings when positioned with power.
“New Orleans is a really unique place, people have so much love for their actual town,” he explains. “I think so much of our culture nowadays is national or global with less emphasis on the local, and New Orleans is so into their city and their local community and I really admire that.”
Overall, “Project Power” is worth a watch both on the entertainment level and with the star-studded cast which provides great acting chops, but also the surprising but really satisfying showcase from some of the newbies such as Fishback. But the movie, aside from the hard-hitting scenes and array of action, really provokes thoughts and questions highlighted by the characters.
“I think it’s going to be really exciting because there is this pill where we are all speculating what it would be like,” says Fishback. “I think the hope that is in there is that you can use your words, you can use your art and use who you are inside to make a difference, and we’re showing that every day with these protests—people are using their words and they’re resonating and shaking up the world when we do these things.”
“I just love a movie that galvanizes and that makes you want to get up and makes you feel powerful inside yourself to tackle whatever it is going on in your life,’ adds Gordon-Levitt. “I feel like this is one of those movies that is going to give you that energy.”
“Project Power” drops August 14th on Netflix