Nicolas Cage’s latest film is Next and is about a Vegas magician who actually has supernatural abilities. Cage plays Chris Johnson, or Cadillac Frank as he goes by on stage, and he has the power to see the next two minutes of his personal future and thus he can change the outcome of certain specific events. He uses this ability for his magic act and to quietly rip-off casinos. Two events then pop up to interrupt this idyllic life; the first is a forewarning of Liz (Jessica Biel) who he sees in a premonition well beyond his standard two minutes, and the second is the FBI’s sudden interest in him helping them stop a nuclear detonation somewhere in California. Now one of these elements could lead to possible sex with Jessica Biel so it’s not hard to believe that Cage would blow off the whole saving millions of lives thing. In all fairness the movie tries to make his choice seem less assholish by telling us he and his abilities were treated very poorly when he was a child, and that he believes his two minute window into the future couldn’t possibly help national security (later we get a scene where the FBI straps him to a chair ala Clockwork Orange to help our sympathy along), but I for one don’t buy it. I’d like to think that if I were told that there was even the slightest chance I could save millions of lives that I’d feel obligated to at least try.
Now the movie has
some great elements, primarily having to do with the use of his ability;
seeing him looking into multiple futures to foil pursuers, win a fight,
or to find the best pick-up line that could lead to sleeping with
Jessica Biel. These moments are a lot of fun but the films use of the
terrorist bomb threat badly offsets the story. The nuke itself is just a
silly Maguffin as we are never told who the terrorists are or what
their agenda is. The bad guy team is composed of French, German, and
Asian members while the apparent architect of the attack is just a
person on the phone that we neither see nor even hear. Were the makers
of this film to afraid to pick a villain?
In the acting
category Julianne Moore is that stand out victim here as she is asked
to bark out some of the worst dialogue ever written as the head of the
FBI team that is trying to track down Cage. It’s as if the makers of
this film saw her performance in Hannibal and then
asked her if she could crank up the suck a few notches. Cage himself is
good and engaging, giving us the quirky performance we have all come to
know and love, as for Miss Biel…well she gives it her best shot on
making us believe she could fall in love with a guy she just met, and
who is old enough to be her father.
*Spoilerish* I don’t think
this is much of a spoiler but more of a warning. The movie never
bothers to explain why Cage’s character’s two minute future seeing
ability was expanded into the days when dealing with Biel’s. Is it
destiny as the film kind of hints at or is it simply lazy writing? You
be the judge. The ending itself left the audience in a stunned silence,
and not a happy silence either more of a “What the hell?” kind of
When I exited the theater I
had the distinct impression that I’d just watched a ninety minute
television pilot that somehow got a theatrical release. The hero of Next
could certainly make an interesting protagonist who week to week is
seen solving crimes while fleeing the evil FBI agents that want to turn
him into a guinea pig, but as a movie we are left with to many
unanswered questions for it to work. I have not read the Philip K.
Dick short story the film is based on, I can only assume he took what is
a very intriguing premise and did something intelligent with it, unlike
what the people responsible for this movie turned out.
So consider this review your own two minute forewarning and give this film a miss.