Guys like Nicolas Cage, not in a disturbing way, but in a bona-fide man-crush kind of way. The same thing happens when Mike Ditka walks into an unsuspecting Chicago sports bar. Why compare the two? Because Cage, at least of late, has made ridiculously entertaining films (see “guilty pleasures”) with some of Hollywood’s most beautiful women – and he usually gets to kiss them and still kick some ass. Any guy, regardless of age, can respect that Cage, who is now forty-three, still gets to be as cool as the other side of the pillow.
Take Next, for example. In the film he plays Cris Johnson, who has a low-rent Las Vegas magic show under the stage name Frank Cadillac. He calls members of the audience on stage and predicts what will happen to them – at least in the next two minutes. Johnson’s skill is assumed by most to be a gimmick, but Johnson can truly see two minutes into the future. His skills are in demand by the FBI, namely Agent Ferris (Moore). A bomb has been planted somewhere in Los Angeles and she wants his input in an effort to find out where it is. Johnson is not so easy to cooperate, as he sees his limited foresight as useless to the feds, and he soon finds himself on the run with Liz (Biel), a young woman he meets in a café. Pursued by both the FBI and the terrorists themselves, Johnson will need as much help as he can get – and it may stem from Liz’s existence.
Although it has some fun effects and trademark Cage zingers, Next can’t overcome just how goofy, and even uninteresting, it is. Like many time-bending thrillers, it has a tough time playing by its own rules. This may account for the cop-out ending that had folks collectively groaning. The film works much more when Cage is given free reign over the craziness around him, less so when the screenplay is trying to convince us that Cage and Jessica Biel are in love (he’s old enough to be her dad!)
The final act does get the project revving, as there is a visually spectacular scene illustrating Johnson searching an abandoned warehouse for clues. It is certainly a slick production, under the direction of Lee Tamahori, and those looking for some brainless thrills do get them – eventually.
The performances are nothing special, but then again it doesn’t really matter all that much. Cage, complete with a Travolta-coif-from-Swordfish, is as cocky as he needs to be and keeps the overacting to a minimum. It’s still hard not to laugh when he asks to speak to a shaman. Jessica Biel does what she’s always asked to do: look pretty and stand around in a bath towel as much as possible. Julianne Moore does the tough chick routine as well as anyone.
It’s very difficult to pinpoint who Next is for. Fans of Phillip K. Dick’s novels are bound to be disappointed since this seems entirely too silly to be an accurate representation of his work. Cage fans can continue to root on his status in Hollywood, but otherwise the demographic appeal is pretty slim. I’ll put it this way: if you laughed at the scene in The Wicker Man when he told the little girl to “step away from the bike” at gunpoint, you might want to give this a look – on DVD, surrounded by your posters of Con Air and Face/Off.
Studio: Paramount Pictures
Length: 91 Minutes
Rating: PG-13 for intense sequences of violent action, and some language.
Theatrical Release: April 27, 2007
Directed by: Lee Tamahori
Written by: Gary Goldman & Jonathan Hensleigh & Paul Bernbaum. Based upon the novel “The Golden Man” by Phillip K. Dick.
Cast: Nicolas Cage, Julianne Moore, Jessica Biel, Thomas Kretschmann, Tory Kittles, José Zúñiga