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Theatrical Review: Next

ByDarren Goodhart

Apr 30, 2007

Chris Johnson is a mentalist who performs in Las Vegas under the name of Frank Cadillac… the thing is, his power is for real: Johnson can see into the future for up to a 2-minute period, but even by doing that, he virtually changes the future every time he does it. He’s haunted by a vision not in his two-minute frame though of a young woman that he’s destined to meet in a diner, who’s key to his own life. Now a terrorist group has a bomb that they’re threatening to detonate, and the FBI, with absolutely no clue as to how to find the bomb, decides that their best bet is to recruit Johnson and have him help in finding the bomb and determining what the terrorists will do next…

… and so goes the premise of Next, the newest film from director Lee Tamahori and star Nicolas Cage and in my opinion, right now the leading contender for worst film of 2007.

Oh, just where to begin with this mess… Well, first off, the premise in itself is not bad and it’s roots are in a story from Philip K. Dick called “The Golden Man.” Now I’ve never read the story, but I certainly recognize some of the Dick elements in the film. Where this goes immediately haywire is just in the limits that they put on Chris Johnson’s ability- a man with his ability, it seems to me anyway, would almost constantly be living 2 minutes ahead of the rest of us, in effect, at least to me, seeming that he should be quite a bit crazy from his ability. But instead they have this under control and in a way where Chris can see all the permutations at once of how an event can play out, which is basically there for script convenience and nothing else. What this does, as this plays out, is give Chris an ability not unlike super-speed, but yet that doesn’t make sense considering how his ability is explained to us in voice-over narration by Cage. They add a further wrinkle with this with the girl that Chris has a vision of (played by Jessica Biel) and Chris tells us this complicates his ability and lets him see further in the future which in turn ties into the film’s end twist, which ultimately ends up being a cheat on the audience.

On top of this, there’s the FBI, with a very small force going into finding this terrorist group (led by Julianne Moore), from a practical aspect, it seems that this force is highly misdirected, losing more time looking for Chris Johnson than looking for the terrorists and the bomb. I couldn’t help but think of the TV show 24, during this and knowing to myself that in the time they spend looking for Chris Johnson, Jack Bauer would’ve found the bomb and had chunks of the terrorists floating in his stool. On top of that, once the FBI do find Johnson, their plan is to set him in front of a TV monitor, with his eyes propped open like Malcolm McDowell’s in A Clockwork Orange and then hoping that Chris will see something in the news that will set him off– What the hell? This FBI group is so inept that they’re nowhere near the group… and yet I know that if I was an agent with their resources, I’d be virtually on top of them, and using Johnson in their vicinity, and yet there’s another catch with Chris’ power: with the exception of the girl, he can only see the future in how it effects him!?!? What a mess…

Nicolas Cage plays the whole thing like your only sympathy with him should be that he’s a haunted man by this love that he’s trying to find and that he’s just using his power to keep himself going and I just didn’t give a damn the whole way through… his only point of sympathy is just with the girl, and really there’s nothing there to hook into. This is the third movie that I’ve seen Cage in this year thus far, and I think it says something that I think his best performance of the year is in the brief cameo that he has in Grindhouse. Julianne Moore does as good as she can do considering the limitations of the script, she’s plenty driven, and she seems resourceful, it’s just that the script itself puts her whole team as not having a clue. Jessica Biel plays the part of “the girl” of the film, and personally, I think she’s pretty well miscast here, she’s probably a good 20 years younger than Cage at this point, just seeming wrong for the guy there, and her point of audience sympathy is just in the fact that she’s a teacher for poor, underprivileged American Indian kids… big whoop, again, I could care less…

We had a group of five with us last night to see this, and even though I doubt most of that group will read this, I have to apologize to them for openly talking during this movie as I was making fun of it as it was playing out… and yet, I just could not help myself… fortunately, at the end of the film, we were all pretty much in agreement as to just how bad it was, and our fun just might’ve been in the smart-ass comments we were making… The thing is, on some movies that are meant to be a bit of dumb-ass action romps, I’m willing to forgive on a lot of things as long as they keep some of their pacing brisk and their action entertaining, here they just give you too much time to think about things– and as such, it will fall apart right before your very eyes… A far better film is out there that’s somewhat similar to this called Deja Vu that just came out on DVD this past week, that never had me questioning what was going on there…

The movie itself just seems like another “miss” for director Lee Tamahori– but how much is he to blame here, I don’t know… with the involvement of a star like Cage, it’s really hard to say, and because it is a big budget film, it’s harder to say just how much this film was cut by (it weighs in at only about 90 minutes). Tamahori has also directed such movies as Once Were Warriors, The Edge, Mullholland Falls, and the James Bond movie, Die Another Day.

If you’re a big Nicolas Cage fan, I doubt that there’s much that I can do to dissuade you from seeing this, because he’s at his quirky best (or worst, at least for me) throughout this… and maybe for some, that might be OK, but for me, I put this film a bit lower compared to another Nicolas Cage mess called National Treasure, and so far the leading candidate for the worst movie that I’ve seen for the year 2007, even worse than The Hills Have Eyes 2 more because this has a bigger budget and bigger stars who frankly should know better…

Darren Goodhart

Darren Goodhart is a 44-year old St. Louis-based Graphic Designer and Illustrator (and former comic book artist) who's been seeing movies all his life, but on an almost weekly basis in theatres for the last 20 years and owns nearly 1,000 DVDs for his home theatre. He's learned a lot about film over the 20 year period, and has taken his appreciation beyond the mainstream. His favorite types of film are mostly genre entertainment, but he also enjoys a wide range of drama, action and cult-y stuff from around the world, and is currently re-discovering a love affair with lower budget exploitation and genre films from the 70s and early 80s. He doesn't try to just dismiss any film, but if there's a bias against one, he'll certainly tell you that in the space of his reviews.

0 thoughts on “Theatrical Review: Next”
  1. Dude,

    I only read the first three paragraphs and then the last one because I didn’t want too much plot given away.

    Your reviews are great, by the way. Consistently analytical and well-structured. I’m glad you’re on the fbsd team, man!

    But dude, c’mon. National Treasure was a fun movie. I actually do like Nicholas Cage. He’s the good thing in otherwise mindless action films. He’s funny. And I like Philip Dick, so I sure hope if I see it’s not as you have said, a mess.

    Keep up the good work, man.

  2. I thought National Treasure would’ve been a fun movie had Disney made it in the 60s and had Dean Jones and Buddy Hackett as the leads… but setting it in the present day and considering our own matters of national security, well this little “romp” just didn’t feel right…

    I don’t hate Cage at all, but I do think he needs to be tempered with a strong director… for instance, I might be one of the few people on the planet who actually likes the re-make of The Wicker Man (don’t get me wrong though, the original is still the way better film), but Neil LaBute is a pretty strong director and considering that films setting, then Cage’s quirks don’t become quite as overpowering.

    And of course, I thought Cage was absolutely brilliant in Lord of War…

    And just because I really wanted to see a good, fun Nicolas Cage movie, this past weekend I watched Gone In 60 Seconds again- which really is just a fun film, Cage is good in it, plus there’s a hell of a supporting cast as well…

  3. Well, I’ll be damned…

    Nice site, Chris… I just hope you never get caught in a situation like this movie (although I guess the bedding down of Jessica Biel in the midst of it might offset some of this)…

    BTW, just so it doesn’t look like I’m bagging on Nicolas Cage entirely, last year, I honestly thought he gave a great performance in World Trade Center, delivering a role that was very authentic and lived in… he’s certainly capable of very good work…

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