Nicolas Cage? I'm thinking it was somewhere around 2006 with the all-time classic remake The Wicker Man. He went from an actor who could play quirky roles to a quirky actor who just made (mostly) bad movies. There's been some good ones mixed in but not too many. Here's one of those quasi-duds, 2007's Next.
Working as a mildly successful performer in Las Vegas under the stage name Frank Cadillac, Cris Johnson (Cage) goes about his job and life as quietly as possible. Why exactly? Cris has a special power, one he's trying to keep under wraps. Cris can see two minutes into his own future, knowing exactly what awaits him around every corner and turn. His small-time gambling tendencies have caught the attention of the FBI, including Agent Callie Ferris (Julianne Moore), who wants to use Cris to help stop a terrorist attack. A nuclear bomb is believed to be transported into the U.S. and hopefully Cris can find out where and when it will be used. On the run for a run-in with the FBI in a casino, Cris is trying to figure it all, trying to piece it all together. It may all be connected to a mysterious woman (Jessica Biel) he can see far further into the future than his usual two-minute limit. Can he do it in time with millions of lives at stake?
When this science fiction-ish thriller was released in 2007, my brother-in-law saw the movie and said he liked it. How did he think I'd feel about it? Well, to put it lightly, I wouldn't like it....AT ALL. That recommendation -- or lack of -- helped me steer clear of 'Next' but I guess seven years or so was a long enough wait. This thriller from director Lee Tamahori is loosely based on a short story, The Golden Man, by Philip K. Dick. Is it good? Well, I'm curious to read Dick's short story because as I feel like I write far too often....a whole lot of potential that never really adds up. It's not a long movie, wrapping up nicely in a little under 90 minutes if you take away the closing credits. The biggest flaws come from an overuse of the gimmick, Cris' ability to see into the future. The idea is cool but it adds up the most crippling flaw of all in the finale.
It's Sixth Sense Syndrome again. Movies aren't content anymore to just have a regular old twist ending. It has to be a twist ending that completely comes out of left field with no warning. It doesn't have to make sense. It doesn't have to fit within the rules of what we've been told to this point. If you're going to have a character that can see into the future in a tight time window, so be it. Run with it. Don't adjust on the fly, and if I've got this twisting, steaming pile of an ending remotely figured out, that's exactly what happens here. A cop-out ending, and that is about the worst thing you can do as a writer/producer/director. Grow a pair and stick with an ending. The point here seems to be to completely confuse the viewer and manipulate them into thinking one thing only to have the carpet pulled out from under you. Now that's a way to create favor with your audience! Just an awful ending.
What I brought up earlier in the introduction is that Nicolas Cage has started to play a caricature of himself over recent years. Quirky overall, stilted acting, even more stilted line deliveries, violent, arm-throwing reactions. Maybe the oddest thing about Next? Cage is the least of the movie's concerns. His voiceover narration is a little overdone at times, and his hair looks pretty hair implant(y) but it's an interesting character. I would have loved some more background other than a few passing lines about his growing up, but the Cris character is certainly interesting from the get-go. Now that said, the script does provide Cage countless opportunities to run. Run away, run to someone, run down a mountain. There's just something truly hilarious about Cage running, trying to sprint at least, because he could be the slowest running actor in Hollywood history. He's pumping and pushing...and looks like he's running in quicksand.
The rest of the cast doesn't fare so well. Julianne Moore feels out of place and forced, her FBI agent whiny and worn down. Jessica Biel tries her best with a poorly written character but there just isn't any interest there. Her mystery woman supposedly holds the key to it all, but it amounts to nothing more than a damsel in distress though. Well, that's not completely fair. There's also her in various stages of undress, under a bed sheet, sporting a post-shower towel. That kind of PG-13 rated "nudity." Also look for Thomas Kretschmann as Mr. Smith, the uniquely named and very dull bad guy, Tory Kittles as Moore's FBI agent assistant, Jose Zuniga as a Vegas security chief, and screen/TV legend Peter Falk making an appearance as a friend of Cris. Except he's on-screen for about 85 seconds and then shuffles off. What's the point?
It is a movie that is missing something. We get little to no background for anything from Cris' history or even a remote explanation of his power to the complete lack of reasoning behind this upcoming terrorist attack. MacGuffins are one thing as Alfred Hitchcock proved time and time again, but you've got to draw a line somewhere, don't you? At no point does 'Next' find a rhythm or pacing, and it feels rushed from start to poorly executed finish. Meh, not good, just not good with wasted potential. Steer clear.
Next (2007): * 1/2 /****