Director: Lee Tamahori
Cast: Nicolas Cage, Julianne Moore, Jessica Biel, Thomas Kretschmann, Tory Kittles, José Zúñiga, Peter Falk
MPAA Rating: (for intense sequences of violent action, and some language)
Running Time: 1:36
Release Date: 4/27/07
Review by Mark Dujsik
Yet another movie not screened for critics (at least here in Chicago; in other markets, it was—figure that out), Next isn't nearly as bad as that fact usually implies. In fact, it's fun in a minor, disposable, and forgettable way. A lot of things could easily go wrong here (its premise alone is reminiscent of many that have given me headaches in the past), but until its trigger-happy, metaphysically-impossible-to-decipher, and anticlimactic copout of an ending, the movie is a successful entertainment—albeit a minor, disposable, and completely forgettable one. Next has a crackerjack sci-fi gimmick from a prestigious science-fiction source (Philip K. Dick's short story "The Golden Man," and something in my gut tells me the movie has only a passing resemblance to the source material), and it's wise not to elaborate too much on the finer details of that gimmick (its origin, its scientific explanation, etc.). What it unwisely avoids is expanding upon how the device affects its central character, instead using the conceit in a cookie-cutter plot involving terrorists, a nuclear bomb, and, of course, an underwritten, star-crossed love story. For what it is, though, it nearly works, although it is—say it with me now—minor, disposable, and forgettable.
The gimmick I've alluded to belongs to Chris Johnson (Nicolas Cage), a.k.a. Frank Cadillac, a Vegas showman and magician who hangs out in a diner every morning, looking for a girl. And not just any girl but Jessica Biel, so it kind of makes sense. Anyway, back to Vegas proper (Is there a rule written somewhere that Sin City must be introduced with Elvis Presley's "A Little Less Conversation?"). Chris puts on a hell of show, making doves appear out of nowhere and counting down the time until a random audience member's necklace falls into her drink. It's almost as if—dun dun dun—he saw it coming. Well, as it turns out, he did. See, Chris can see two minutes into the future. Why two minutes? Who knows, and more importantly, who cares? He uses his gift to cheat at gambling and to stop a casino theft before it happens. Unfortunately, the head of security at the casino (José Zúñiga) has been on to Chris, and sends his security team after him. After escaping the police with his knowledge of the future, he hides out with Irv (Peter Falk's single scene) and runs again when he senses an FBI agent named Ferris (Julianne Moore) means to use him for national security reasons.
Ferris wants Chris because French terrorists (they're possible Communist, too, unless the T-shirt of one of the terrorists is ironic) have hijacked a nuclear bomb and plan to detonate it in Los Angeles. I should also point out that the French terrorists' leader is played by German actor Thomas Kretschmann. Civic duty isn't high on Chris' list of priorities, and before he tries to run yet again, he stops in the diner and spots Liz (Biel), the woman from his vision. There's a funny bit where Chris tries out pickup lines on Liz—all of them failing miserably—before he gets up the gall to go over to her. After dealing with her stalker ex-boyfriend (again, testing the waters whether it's better to fight him or just get decked), she offers to take Chris to Flagstaff. See, for some reason, Chris can see further into the future when it involves Liz or Liz is around or something like that. Why? It's best not to think about it. So Liz and Chris get to know each other and fall in love, but Ferris is always there. Eventually, she manages to convince Chris to help her out—by arresting him.
Not before a crazy action sequence involving all sorts of debris falling down a hill. It's good sequence, in spite of the cheap but still effective special effects and the fact that everyone besides Chris manages to avoid the wreckage just as well as he does (they must have foresight too). The movie's use of Chris' gift is entertaining, especially in some gags. He throws a baton at nothing, and a guard steps in front of it just in time. There's also a level of creepiness to the fact that Chris sees himself dying a lot here (there's one scene where we see him avoiding bullets while wading through the other potential futures where he was actually shot), and there's reference to two Kubrick films—whatever that means. The climax, though, suffers from the usual generic shootout dynamics. And why, if Chris can stand in place and still see the entire ship, doesn't he follow the strike team and prevent them from suffering losses? It's kind of cheating that Chris can just mentally wander around, splitting himself into parts as he hits crossroads, and there's very minimal tension because of it.
That doesn't compare to the cheat the ending tries to pull off. It's back, appropriately enough, at the Cliffhanger Motel where Liz and Chris spend the night, and it just leaves us hanging. It's a cheap device Next throws in at the end, one that makes your mouth drop and disbelievingly utter—as the French terrorists would—quoi?
Copyright © 2007 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.