Director: Lee Tamahori
Starring: Nicolas Cage, Julianne Moore, Jessica Biel, Thomas Kretschmann, Peter Falk
Running Time: 96 min.
** (out of ****)
Next is probably just as terrible as you thought it was going to be, but no worse. I'd say it's almost on even ground with Premonition, the similarly themed Sandra Bullock "thriller" from earlier this year, which wasn't exactly an intricate masterwork of plotting and characterization. That film was boring though. This at least extends the audience the courtesy of being entertainingly bad. About halfway through this film I came to a realization: There's really no valid reason for its existence and the filmmakers all but admit to it themselves. It was almost as if someone on the set threw their hands up in the air and said, "Screw it! Let's forget this whole mess ever happened."
The script is loosely based on Phillip K. Dick's short story "The Golden Man" and is the latest Hollywood offering to drag the great name of this legendary science fiction author through the mud. The film is ludicrously cast, poorly written and will likely end up in the bargain bin of your local Blockbuster in a couple of months. Alarmingly, it also stands as confirmation that Nicolas Cage has lost his mind and must have some kind of death wish for his career. It'll make you long for the glory days of the mid to late 90's when he starred in mindless Jerry Bruckheimer action vehicles like Con-Air and The Rock, which could be considered high art compared to what we witness here. The director of this mess is Lee Tamahori (The Edge, Die Another Day), a man better known for his cross-dressing exploits than any cinematic achievement, and this should do little to change that.
Cage (with a stolen Tom Hanks Da Vinci Code hairstyle) plays Cris Johnson, A Las Vegas illusionist who performs under the stage name "Frank Cadillac" and has the unique ability to see exactly two minutes into the future. This ability applies only to events involving himself, with one noticeable exception. For some reason he can see further than that when it pertains to Liz (Jessica Biel), a woman he has visions of meeting at a diner. It's a meeting he's determined to see happen and how it does provides one of the few clever scenes in the film as he puts his precognitive talents to good, manipulative use.
Trailing Cris is F.B.I agent Callie Ferris (Julianne Moore) who needs Cris' help in thwarting a nuclear terrorist attack in the Los Angeles area. She saw him prevent a casino robbery and thinks he's the guy who can stop this potential catastrophe. Unfortunately, Cris disagrees and the rest of the film consists of him running from her and the terrorists, who are aware of his powers and want him eliminated.
The film actually starts off really well in the casino giving us an in depth look at Cris' ability, which obviously helps him win big in slots and at the poker table. Had it continued to follow the tone it sets at the beginning, really exploring what Cris could do and its repercussions instead of deteriorating into a mindless action spectacle we could have really had something. Probably not much, but it would have at least been something. The "two minutes into the future" gimmick is a good one that you sense had some potential with a better script, even though we've seen variations on it too many times in just this year alone.
The central problem with the story is that it simply makes no sense. Why would the F.B.I. waste their time chasing around this magician with a very questionable skill when they should be trying to prevent a nuclear attack? Furthermore, why would the terrorists try to kill this guy when they should be worrying about carrying out their plan? You get the feeling this whole movie consists of people chasing windmills. There's also no reason for Cris to be running. If anything, it would benefit him to aide the F.B.I. in any way he can considering he's a fugitive. It just doesn't fit together at all.
Movies like this are known for featuring generic bad guys but this one takes it to a whole new level. With a gun to my head I wouldn't be able to pick any of these terrorists out of a line-up or tell you one thing about them. Their names. How they talked What they looked like. There was this one guy who appeared to be the leader of the group, but I'm not completely sure. There's a hysterical CGI sequence toward the end of the film that looks like a low budget outtake from The Matrix. They clumsily try to present Cris' skill of looking two minutes into the future visually, but with the slow motion photography it instead looks like he's moving objects with his mind.
As for Cage and Biel, there have been many ridiculous May-December romantic parings in film history but this one may take the cake. I'm aware of the fact that a lead actor must be significantly older than his female co-star and have no problem with it at all. Actually, as a guy, I feel it's my duty to cheer the double standard that exists in Hollywood when it comes to this, but something seems off here and I think it has less to do with the distracting age gap than the performances of the two actors. They share no chemistry and Cage's character comes across as creepy, which doesn't help.
Cage phones it in, and while it may not be the single worst performance of his career, that's faint praise considering it's coming on the heels of his abysmal work in Ghost Rider. Biel, as usual, proves herself adept at wearing tight jeans but contributing little else. And whose idea was it to cast one of the few actresses who can believably kick anyone's ass, as a damsel in distress? Julianne Moore, who would have been a more appropriate choice to play the love interest (at least age wise) is saddled with the role of a hard-nosed F.B.I. agent. Moore, though laughably miscast, is the only actor here to escape unscathed and free of embarrassment. She also gets a pass because this is the first (and hopefully last) time I've seen her taking a paycheck part. Any thrills that could be found in watching her play so far against type are offset by the fact her character is a bore who spends most of the film barking orders at subordinates.
Before seeing watching this I was angered that I accidentally found out the ending. I realize now just how stupid a reaction that was. The ending is completely inconsequential, not to mention a total cheat. The nicest thing I can say about it is that it at least made sense…sort of. Honestly, if Tom Hanks appeared onscreen to confront Cage and demand his hair back it wouldn't have saved this movie. In Tamahori's defense most of the problems with the picture are with the script as the film is competently shot and paced.
At an appropriate 96 minutes the film doesn't drag or overstay its welcome, seeming at least somewhat aware of its stupidity and not overextending itself. It is sort of a guilty pleasure to watch big stars like Cage, Biel and Moore lower themselves like this and in the right hands this could have been played well as a comedy, if only the actors looked like they were having fun. Thinking back to Cage's hair, his hilarious romantic scenes with Biel, the bad CGI sequence and even the film's silly title cause me to laugh as I type this. Next could best be categorized as an inoffensively bad film that goes down quick and easy.