Sunday 1 October 2017

Movie Review: Next (2007)

A science fiction action thriller, Next offers what could have been an intriguing proposition and proceeds to pulverize it into a predictable pisspot.

Cris Johnson (Nicolas Cage) is a second-rate Vegas magician performing under the name Frank Cadillac. Cris does have a clairvoyant gift that he prefers to keep secret: he can see two minutes into his own future. After tangling with the security apparatus of a Vegas casino, Cris is approached by FBI Special Agent Callie Ferris (Julianne Moore), who wants to ask for his help to find a stolen Russian nuclear device that has been smuggled into the US.

Cris refuses and goes on the run, but pauses to meet and team up with Liz Cooper (Jessica Biel), a woman he has seen in his visions and who allows him to see further than two minutes into the future. Together they make their way to Flagstaff, with the FBI and the terrorists in hot pursuit.

Directed by Lee Tamahori as an adaptation of a Philip K. Dick story, Next tries hard to be a straight-to-DVD bargain bin release, but is unfortunately prevented from finding its true destiny by too many stars in the cast looking for a quick payday. A reasonably glossy production cannot patch up a stinker of a plot that starts with a single idea and quickly disintegrates into a mundane thriller consisting entirely of people chasing people for about 96 minutes.

Next is most memorable for an atrocious ending, which will not be spoiled here, although it deserves to be. What the ending does achieve is almost conceal how horrible the rest of the film is. Next has generic terrorists who never get to explain their plot or their cause; the baddies are just convenient and interchangeable Europeans who want to detonate a nuclear device. Move along, no other explanation is necessary.

And the screenplay does not even attempt to reveal what else anyone is doing to prevent the attack. Agent Ferris provides regular reminders that about 8 million people are about to die, and yet the considerable resources of the FBI appear to be deployed for the single purpose of capturing a two-bit Las Vegas magician. To add further insults to any remaining intelligence, the terrorists decide that chasing and killing Cris Johnson is also worth risking their time and resources. What better way to proceed with a carefully planned terrorist attack than to intentionally be as close as possible to hordes of FBI agents.

Finally, the science fiction elements are made up and revised on the fly. This is a film that establishes a two minute rule about how far Cris can see into his future, a limit that is meticulously repeated by various characters for the benefit of slower audience members. Regardless, Next promptly breaks the premise without explanation upon introducing the Liz Cooper character. By the disastrous end of the film all bets are off and none of the rules seem to matter, Cris now capable of being in multiple places at one time.

Nicolas Cage goes through the motions, Julianne Moore carries an annoyed attitude throughout, and Jessica Biel never appears sure as to what her character is doing in the movie, a question that also stumped the filmmakers. Peter Falk pops up in one scene and cashes out. Next indeed, and quickly.

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  1. Nicolas cage's career has been going downhill ever since con air, which for me is the last film of his I have enjoyed. how the mighty have fallen and to think he once had a promising early career in the 1980s.

    1. Cage mixes the good with the very bad. Movies like 8mm (1999), The Family Man (2000), Adaptation (2002), Matchstick Men (2003), and Lord Of War (2005) range from quite good to excellent and are well worth watching. But then he also has too many disasters like Next on his resume.


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