Cris Johnson (Cage) is a Las Vegas magician who actually has the ability to look into the future. Not the distant future, mind you, but one limited to two minutes ahead in time. This super ability works well when playing poker or figuring out which slot machine to pop a coin into. It’s also useful in keeping Cris out of harm’s way. He can always change his next step to avoid the bullet headed his direction or turn left instead of right to avoid a collision. It’s a sweet deal, but it has its drawbacks.
After playing a couple of hands of blackjack and netting a tidy sum of money, Cris knows it’s time to head out of the casino before the casino’s security personnel can haul him in for questioning. Cashing out, Cris stops an armed gunman who was just about to kill two casino workers, although of course he can’t explain how he knew that to the police. Escaping capture by knowing his pursuers moves before they make them, he leads the police on a crazy car chase through the streets of Vegas.
All this sets up his run-in with the FBI, which is the meat of the film. Counter-terrorist Agent Callie Ferris (Julianne Moore) is in charge of locating a nuclear bomb somewhere in So California before it can detonate and kill millions. Ferris believes Cris is the answer to her problem of figuring where the bomb is and when it will go off.
Of course Liz says yes to Cris’ request to hitch a ride with her, and of course he says no to Agent Ferris’ request to stop terrorists from destroying a good portion of America. But circumstances change and Cris might just be the only person on the planet who can stop the destruction.
Cage isn’t bad and Biel deserves her reputation as one of the hottest young actresses of her generation. With each role, including this one, Biel’s proving she’s got talent and depth. Taken separately, the acting worked. But I can’t help thinking this would have been better with a younger actor in Cage’s place or an older actress in place of Biel. I just don’t see these two characters as portrayed in the film hooking up in the real world, which makes it hard to accept them getting together in less than 24 hours on the screen.
Just about everything is wrong with Julianne Moore’s portrayal of a government agent, although it’s necessary to cut her some slack because, honestly, she’s forced to deliver horrible lines and that’s a major part of the problem. The other supporting actors are completely forgettable, with the exception of a tiny appearance by Peter Falk whose character seems to have wandered in from an earlier version of the script.
Next does feature a couple of terrific action sequences that visually depict Cage’s character’s unique time-traveling ability, including one particularly clever piece showing dozens of ghost-Cages roaming hallways. Tamahori handles a horrific car crash at the beginning of the film and an incredibly complex scene involving logs and vehicles tumbling down a mountain with such style that it makes you wish Next was strictly a no-holds barred action adventure.
The story doesn’t make sense on so many levels, beginning with the idea that the government would pin their hopes on a guy who they discover in short order can only see two minutes into the future. The odds are astronomical this stage magician will be able to locate a terrorist in time unless, of course, you apply movie logic.
Next cheats on its own premise and that’s not only unfair, it’s frustrating. Whether you appreciate the film’s ending (which I won’t spoil) or hate the way Next wraps up (the preview audience I saw it with let out a collective groan), it’s hard to leave the movie thinking anything other than that you’ve just wasted two good hours of your time.
Next was directed by Lee Tamahori and is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violent action and some language.