A high-concept caper with a paranormal hook, Next should be a doozy. Sadly, Lee Tamahori’s film never makes good on its slick premise (Vegas clairvoyant who really can see the future), defaulting instead to a generic ticking clocker that plays like 24 crossed with Minority Report.
Given the source material (Philip K Dick story The Golden Man), it’s hard to avoid the latter comparison. But where Spielberg used pre-cognition as a device to explore the morality of proactive law enforcement, Tamahori fixates exclusively on the wish-fulfilment aspects of Nicolas Cage’s ability to know what’s coming two minutes in advance. The tactic works a treat when his third-rate mentalist is using his gift to bilk the house or woo toothsome teacher Jessica Biel. Once Julianne Moore’s ball-busting Fed dragoons him into locating a missing nuke though, the fun factor goes bye-bye, Cage morphing into a bullet-dodging Superman with the reality-bending powers of Neo.
Having established Cage’s limitations from the get-go, it’s annoying that the movie’s triptych of scripters embellish his capacities whenever the plot requires it – negotiating an avalanche, for example, or cloning himself to explore every nook of a warehouse simultaneously. Not half as infuriating as Cage himself though, the actor’s trademark goofiness (sipping a martini as he wanders through a casino, cracking jokes about hotdog-eating Buddhists) jarring visibly with the film’s apocalyptic scenario. It doesn’t help that he wears the worst mullet since The Da Vinci Code or that the pic comes with a disgraceful cheat of an ending that makes a mockery of everything that precedes it. What really sinks Next however, is its delusions of grandeur, nods to Kubrick (Dr Strangelove on television, Moore hooking Cage up to a Clockwork Orange eyelid clamp) and Aldrich (a backwards credit scroll lifted wholesale from Kiss Me Deadly) tipping the wink to Tamahori’s hopes of turning his speculative sci-fi fantasy into an existential parable. Talk about wish-fulfilment.
Cage has yet another bad hair day in a Dick-based actioner that repeatedly breaks its own rules. Biel's merely window dressing, while Moore struggles to earn her second billing in a humourless role that's Clarice Starling in all but name.
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