Part "Crash"-type multiple-viewpoint melodrama, part exquisite-corpse lark, and all over-the-top.
The novelty of “The Power of Few” is that it was created through an interactive process, with an online community pitching in on casting, editing and other aspects. This might seem an open invitation to the “too many cooks” school of artistic failure, and indeed, the results amount to an arbitrary whatsit — part “Crash”-type multiple-viewpoint melodrama, part exquisite-corpse lark, and all over-the-top. As a curio, it may find supporters down the line, but as an immediate commercial prospect, Leone Marucci’s debut feature (which has been opening in U.S. markets since Feb. 15) looks to quickly exit theaters for download.
Chaptered segments track various character paths that will come together violently at a New Orleans intersection — or won’t, thanks to the intervention of a little girl named Few (Tione Johnson). There’s a teen (Devon Gearhart) who takes drastic measures to get his neglected baby brother the medicine he needs; a thrill-seeking scooter delivery girl (Q’orianka Kilcher) who whisks away a hapless dude (Jesse Bradford) as he’s about to get whacked by gangbangers (Anthony Anderson and Juvenile); two secret-agent types (Christian Slater, Nicki Whelan) on the trail of a possible terrorist; and, for comic relief, a couple of rascally homeless guys played by Christopher Walken and Jordan Prentice.
Oh, and also: The Shroud of Turin has been stolen from the Vatican, which is announced via a Larry King cameo. There may be an international conspiracy afoot to clone Jesus. This stuff is meant seriously, insofar as one can tell — though that’s often hard to discern in a movie that reels from sentimental moralizing to cheap genre thrills, in-da-‘hood cliches and attempted absurdist riffs, all done with energetic abandon but scant intelligence. Style as well as content are all over the map — deliberately so, but intent does not make it good. Viewers may select their own worst plot thread from several candidates, but for mixing pretentiousness, senselessness and sheer obnoxiousness, the Slater/Whelan strand is the one to beat.
Unsurprisingly, the perfs are highly variable. Walken, Kilcher and Whelan, in particular, are given enough rope to hang themselves, and accept that mission with unbecoming zeal. One appreciates the pro restraint of Prentice, miraculously maintaining dignity and a straight face; ditto the comic chops Anderson and Juvenile sport in their scene with Johnson, who gets stuck with a horribly on-the-nose climactic speech about karma that would have challenged more experienced thesps.
Still, it’s all slickly if at times too-flashily assembled in tech and design terms.