A pay-cable crime soap with a hip-hop beat, “Power” counts Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson among its executive producers, and draws liberally from a rich history of mob yarns. By that measure, this Starz series musters occasional moments — mostly courtesy of its charismatic star, Omari Hardwick — but has a second-tier feel to it, with the familiar theme of the drug dealer who yearns to go legit, despite all the forces standing between him and dreams of dying from old age. Violent, sexy and slick, the show mostly feels like it’s sampling riffs from movies and TV of yore.
Of course, Starz chief Chris Albrecht had to know the territory that the show seeks to navigate represents something of a minefield, having been at HBO during those halcyon “Sopranos” years. And while “Power” (a rather nondescript title) sets itself apart through casting and venue, the cops-and-robbers machinations, double-crosses and family concerns all feel plucked from earlier leaps into this sandbox.
At the center of it all is James St. Patrick (Hardwick, previously seen in “Being Mary Jane”), so adept at managing his street business he’s known merely as “Ghost,” since no one can connect him to his well-mediated drug-dealing apparatus. But his new passion involves an upscale New York club, offering the means to launder his money and potentially provide the pathway to an escape from his illicit dealings.
Alas, Ghost’s plans don’t receive much support from his longtime running buddy/enforcer Tommy (Joseph Sikora) or even his wife Tasha (“The Playboy Club’s” Naturi Naughton, like a lot of the cast, showing off more than a Bunny outfit). Even with their young children to worry about, Tasha keeps reassuring her husband he’s so good at the drug game, he can beat the odds.
That business, however, is under siege, with unknown parties robbing his couriers, and a ruthless foreign supplier (is there any other kind?) breathing down his neck. Moreover, there’s the additional complication of an old high-school girlfriend (Lela Loren) suddenly walking back into his life, tempting Ghost — who, we’re told, has never strayed — with more than a dime bag of meaningful stares.
The three previewed episodes of the show, created by “The Good Wife” alumna Courtney Kemp Agboh, move briskly enough, but they’re still only moderately compelling. And while 50 Cent’s participation provides some promotional heft (he has a cameo in a later episode), the allure of such behind-the-scenes marquee names is usually limited.
Mostly, this is undemanding escapism with all the requisite pay-TV trappings, along the lines of what Cinemax is offering in episodic form.
While that might be a formula to keep Ghost visible for some time to come, creatively speaking, it leaves “Power” a touch low on juice.