Next is the story of Cris Johnson, a C-list Vegas magician who has an actual magical power. Johnson, you see, can look exactly two minutes into the future and see all possible outcomes to his actions; this is a talent that’s extremely helpful if he should be cheating at Black Jack, or preventing an armed robbery or being used by the FBI to find a wayward, terrorist planted nuke. Cris’s only Achilles heel is his dream girl Liz, whom he prognosticated meeting well beyond his two minute threshold. Just when you thought it was safe to escape Nicholas Cage mad cap mugging his way through another action picture, comes what happens in Next.
Very loosely based on the story by Phillip K. Dick, author of other stories that became the basis of Minority Report and Total Recall, Next is really more Paycheck than Blade Runner. Like all Dick stories there’s an interesting idea at the heart of the tale. In the author’s original, The Golden Man, the protagonist Cris is a gold skinned mutant (hence the title of the story) that is one of many being hunted and exterminated by government agents in the future. Like in the book, the movie Cris is also being hunted by government agents, Agent Ferris (Julianne Moore) wants him in custody for altruistic reasons though, namely so that she can use his ability to find a nuke stolen from Russia and hidden somewhere in Los Angeles poised to kill 8 million people.
Director Lee Tamahori skillfully executes the film’s visually interesting action sequences including one where Cris uses his ability to search everywhere in a warehouse at once or evading a brigade of Federal agents with a well-timed Hail Mary play involving avalanching debris over the Grand Canyon. This is an interesting function of Cris powers, but it doesn’t explain how he doesn’t foresee that his girlfriend is upset about something, while frantically waiting two minutes to sneak a sedative into his OJ on orders from the Feds. Another neat thing is the way that Cris is not above using his abilities for personal gain or subtle insight, but then again his powers don’t seem to be 100 percent because there are occasional holes in his visions. Almost like the plot-holes in this movie, the “twist” ending prominent enough to be noticed from space. Frankly, it’s not so much a twist ending as a take back ending if you know what I mean.
If anything, at least Nicolas Cage was entertaining to watch and he seemed to be doing a lot to show that Cris had some stuff going on upstairs while he was at it. A brief appearance by Columbo himself, Peter Falk, was not an unwelcome addition either. But somehow Next, for a movie with a ticking time clock scenario that promises apocalyptic implications, there really didn’t seem to be an anxiety about the situation, let alone the fact that the nondescript Euro trash villains are about as scary as the Jets in dress rehearsal. Considering Nic Cage’s track record lately this was much better than it should have been. But the fact of the matter is, despite its interesting premise, Next should have known that it’d only turn out average.