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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Project Power is very violent from beginning to end, but it also has messages about loyalty, treamwork, and bravery that could resonate with teens. The premise of the film centers on a powerful new drug that's considered very dangerous, yet even the "good guys" use it to "level the playing field." Despite the potential glamorization around the superhuman powers the drug offers, the pills are also depicted as exceptionally dangerous: Some people die on contact or first use. The drug manufacturers see its users as "lab rats," and a teen dealer doesn't use it herself because she once saw someone overdose. Violent action scenes show people being killed, including by the main characters, in all manner of ways, using all kinds of weapons, often in gory detail. A teenager is kidnapped, put in a trunk, and threatened with a gun; her mother's life is also threatened in order to get information out of her. Language includes "s--t," "bitch," "ass," "bulls--t," "hell," and "goddamn." Jamie Foxx, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and Dominique Fishback co-star.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
In PROJECT POWER, there's a new drug on the streets of New Orleans that gives people individualized superpowers. High schooler Robin (Dominique Fishback) is one of a small army of dealers handling the drug, a means for her to make money to pay for her mom's diabetes prescriptions. Frank (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is a local cop who tries to help Robin out when he can. That's only one of many rules he's willing to break to try to get to the source of the new drug and cut off the flow to his city. When former soldier Art (Jamie Foxx) kidnaps Robin to try to get information about the drug, Frank is fast on their trail. He doesn't know the reason Art is also looking for the drug lords, nor why Robin suddenly seems to want to help Art. But the three of them will need to collaborate to meet their goals -- and to survive.
Is it any good?
This is a slick, suspenseful, big screen-style action film that seems primed for a franchise. The superpower storyline allows for a parade of visually explosive effects, and the tale's compelling characters with real-world problems add appeal. Embedded in these characters, in turn, are broader themes about the obstacles that Black people -- and especially young Black women -- face in America. Two young Black female characters ultimately save the day, and Project Power references Henrietta Lacks, the Black woman whose cells were involuntarily harvested and used in medical research for decades.
Despite more than a few implausible sequences, Fishback is very credible as Robin, playing the teen as tough and brave, yet profoundly vulnerable and nearly defeated. She's the real discovery in this film, though Foxx is solid as the flawed hero and Gordon-Levitt adds humor, including a funny running joke of him practicing his "tough guy" lines, Clint Eastwood-style, in the mirror. The setting is another character: New Orleans is treated as a bit of an underdog that needs standing up for, its past devastating floods earning repeated mention. "You know what happened last time we were counting on guys in suits to look out for New Orleans," Frank quips at one point. He's not wrong.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about whether Project Power has a pro-drug or anti-drug message. Does it glamorize substance use at all?
Frank convinces his boss to let him break some rules to bring down the villains. Can you think of a time where breaking the rules was justified in your own life?
Art tells Robin that the "system" is "designed to swallow" young Black women. What do you think he means by that? Do you agree?
If you had a superpower, what do you think it would be?
Do you know the history of Henrietta Lacks? Where could you find out more information?
- On DVD or streaming: August 14, 2020
- Cast: Jamie Foxx, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Dominique Fishback
- Directors: Henry Joost, Ariel Schulman
- Studio: Netflix
- Genre: Action/Adventure
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Friendship
- Character strengths: Teamwork
- Run time: 111 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: violence, bloody images, drug content and some language
- Last updated: March 19, 2021
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