There are certain things that I just don’t believe, even in a Hollywood movie. I don’t believe casino security would be dumber, slower, and less connected than the FBI. Nor do I believe that an FBI with enough technology to make James Bond look ill-equipped would waste time and manpower finding a Vegas side show performer when a nuke was loose in LA.
Most of all, I don’t believe that Jessica Biel would ever get into a car alone with Nicolas Cage. Not ever. Not even if she was drunk. And especially not when Cage’s hair is worse than Tom Hanks’s do in The Da Vinci Code. Still, all these things are reality in Next, a bastardized, lobotomized version of the Philip K. Dick short story "The Golden Man".
Dick’s work has been adapted before into cinematic masterpieces like Blade Runner and Minority Report and into travesties like Ben Affleck’s Paycheck. Next is a new low for Dick adaptations. It’s a hollow, hyperactive sham of a film, one that wouldn’t embarrass Dick, but should embarrass the people in it.
Cage stars as Cris Johnson, a Las Vegas magician who can foresee the future — his future — but only two minutes before it happens. When a Russian nuke turns up missing, FBI Agent Callie Ferris (Julian Moore) is convinced that Johnson’s ability to do magic tricks makes him the ideal candidate for finding the nuke. Her boss, a fiery, folksy, backwoods sheriff who somehow managed to become a ranking official in the FBI, barely blinks an eye and lets Ferris loose.
Johnson did see more than two minutes into his future one time. When he did, he envisioned meeting Liz (Jessica Biel) in a Vegas diner. Liz apparently goes for weird, middle-aged men with bad hair because she quickly offers to take Johnson out of Vegas when he’s escaping from the FBI. He just wants a normal life and sees Liz as the way to it. The FBI doesn’t give up easily. Neither do the terrorists with the nuke. As he gets closer to Liz (i.e. having sex with her hours after they first meet), Johnson’s new love turns into his biggest weakness.
Cage has had his share of embarrassments, so the flippant, oddly creepy performance is easily disregarded as another action misadventure. I like Cage a lot, but lose respect for him every time he take his talent and uses it to do nothing more than channel Adam West’s Batman. He knows just how bad the scripts are and, without thinking, parodies the film he’s in. If only everyone took Next as lightly.
Moore is proof that someone takes the film seriously, even if Cage doesn’t. As FBI Agent Ferris, Moore has two settings: angry and very angry. Even when she’s calm, Moore’s hard-nosed portrayal makes Ferris appear edgy and insincere. For some reason, Cage’s character ends up trusting her. But there are so many sentences I could start with “for some reason” when describing this movie, I won’t waste more time rationalizing anything that happens.
When the narrative became so implausible that even a five-year-old would roll his eyes, I began to wish someone had just given the project to a Michael Bay or a John Woo instead of director Lee Tamahori. At least then we could be thrilled by action or effects. With Next there is little redeeming value to the project at all.
Then there’s the ending. I won’t go into the ending more than saying that it’s so lazy and so irresponsible that it forces the sudden realization that you sat through 45 minutes of BS only to go nowhere. If I had the ability to see into the future, I would have walked out. Sure I may still have learned how the film ended, but at least I could have saved some time and gone to see a better movie.
You know. Something like Wild Hogs.