Does a film need to be based on a comic book to be a comic book movie?
Not anymore! The genre has become so ubiquitous on-screen that original flicks are snapping up its capes-and-world-domination tropes to tell new tales.
Netflix’s enjoyable “Project Power,” which is not inspired by any graphic novel, joins the club with a plot about superpowers that come from taking an illegal pill.
Favored by thugs, the underworld drug affects each person differently for five-minute bursts: some become invisible, a few turn into flame or ice, the unlucky ones explode.
Yet more comic book-like, the film also centers around a bloodthirsty vendetta, as former soldier Art (Jamie Foxx) tries to rescue his daughter Tracy (Kyanna Simone Simpson) from the same evil drug-pushers that performed cruel experiments on him. The heightened action sequences have an illustrated quality to them.
But there is enough detail and psychological nuance in Mattson Tomlin’s clever script to make “Project Power” more intriguing than most of what Marvel and DC have to offer, even if it could barely match their catering budgets.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt, for instance, plays a New Orleans cop named Frank who pops the pill discreetly during shootouts. Street-smart and hungry, Frank knows the only way he can clean up his city is by getting on an even footing with its criminals. His power is strong, bulletproof skin.
Early on, he meets Robin (Dominique Fishback), who is a young dealer — and aspiring rapper — who leads him to a local supplier that, in turn, reveals a plot to make a pill with permanent effects.