“Academy Award winner Nicolas Cage, Julianne Moore and Jessica Biel join forces to bring you the heart-pounding thriller that is Next. Cris Johnson (Cage) earns his living in a seedy Las Vegas magic act, but his ability to see a few minutes into the future is authentic. Government agent Callie Ferris (Oscar nominee Moore) knows this, and relentlessly recruits him to help thwart a terrorist group from detonating a nuclear bomb in the heart of Los Angeles. Will the reluctant hero join the desperate race against the clock by daring to see what is Next? Featuring non-stop action, explosive special effects and adrenaline-charged special features, this is an exciting adventure you won’t want to miss!”
“Next” is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violent action, and some language.
Of course, the jumping off point for this movie would have to be last year’s Dick-flick wannabe “Déjà Vu,” but the premise here is thankfully far less complex and as a whole, far less long-winded, letting us see Cris’s powers at work during the first ten minutes when he leads the police on an amazing car chase where we watching something happen and then see how Cris changes the outcome by timing things differently or making a different decision. It doesn’t take long for the silliest of pre-9/11 terrorist plots to be introduced, complete with unrealistic FBI agents and German bad guys fresh from John McLane’s last romp.
Cris Johnson is actually one of Cage’s better action characters, more like Benjamin Gates of “National Treasure” in terms of charm and personality, because he always knows what to say and do. This comes across the best as he tries to win over the beautiful woman he’s seen in visions with whom he’s become obsessed since he can see further into her future than his own. When that woman, Jessica Biel’s Liz, walks into the diner where Cris has dreamt of meeting her, he’s forced to come up with the perfect opening, examining all the possible reactions and outcomes of making the wrong first move. This is one of the more entertaining non-action scenes of the movie but it leads to a lull in which the movie threatens to grind the halt as it delves into their romance and relationship. Just as this gets tiring, it kicks back into gear with an impressive action piece and than doesn’t let up after that until the end.
Cage effortlessly carries this movie, but Julianne Moore isn’t particularly convincing, as she plays her FBI agent tougher and more high-strung than her Clarice Staring; needless to say, it’s not her best role. Jessica Biel is far better cast as Cage’s love interest, playing well off of Cage in their scenes together, plus there’s something amusing about seeing Biel strapped with explosives ready to be detonated. (An early appearance by Peter Falk as Cris’ mentor is enjoyable but the character is quickly forgotten never to return.)
As things build to what could be the end of Los Angeles, Cris leads the FBI agents through a warehouse looking for the bad guys while warning them of potential danger. In this sequence, Tamahori uses even more clever special effects to show off Cris’ powers, at one point him covering an entire floor with multiple versions of himself to show him going through every single possible variable.
Most of all, “Next” gets points for being just the right length to work. Where anyone else would have dragged this story on for far too long, trying to make it more complicated than it need be, this one gets to the point, throws one last twist at the viewerit will either be accepted or grumbled aboutand then it ends on a pleasant high note. In fact, this may be one of the first Dick adaptations since “Blade Runner” that might warrant some form of sequel, although who knows what they’d be able to call it?
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