Lee Tamahori is not the best of directors, or, if he is, he employs very lousy special effects houses and editors. His last four films, with exception to xXx: State of the Union, have all had some potential, but all have been missing something that would take the stories to a truly legitimate and exciting level. Die Another Day, the absurd James Bond flick that pretty much begged for the grittier, more realistic Casino Royale, is a perfect example: it had the pieces, but a combination of poor storytelling and incredibly inane special effects ruined it. Along Came a Spider, the sequel to Kiss the Girls, was decent, but it too suffered from some special effects that ripped the carpet out from under the film. And now there's Next, a Nicolas Cage-starring thriller that has a lot going for it, but still lacks something that makes us truly believe.
To start, Next is an entertaining movie. It keeps you guessing, at least in the superficial sense, and you'll never be bored. The film is based on a story by Phillip K. Dick, and is about a man (Cage) who can see two minutes into his own future, a long enough time to allow him to escape from cops repeatedly and perhaps prevent an even larger crisis. Though he has lived with this gift his entire life, he is intrigued by a woman (Jessica Biel) whom he can see days into the future, even though he has never been able to do that in the past. But with both the feds (led by Julianne Moore) and terrorists hot on his trail, will he ever get to be with her?
Essentially, the movie is a non-stop thriller, as Cage goes from one dangerous situation to the next. It isn't non-stop action, however, and there are a few parts where nothing happens for a while. Luckily, it pays off as Biel is, in most of these scenes, wearing not much more than a towel. Next does take full advantage of the main character's powers, and the seeing-into-the-future bit makes several otherwise ordinary sequences quite entertaining. A scene where Cage tries to decide how to introduce himself to Biel for the first time is quite fun, as the film goes through several iterations of him getting shot down before he finally comes up with a successful solution.
Cage is a good choice for the lead character, even if he looks like he is drugged most of the time. He may be a bit too subdued for his own good, but his quiet confidence also adds to his charm, too. Biel is okay, though she really doesn't get to do much other than look pretty. As for Moore... well, Next features one of her worst performances to date. As if her role as Clarice Starling wasn't enough, she plays an FBI agent again here, only this time she's loud, obnoxious, ridiculously pushy and stereotypical. She shouts most of her lines, and it just is painful to watch.
Next is an entertaining film that anyone can probably enjoy, but it is also one of the sloppiest movies I've seen in a long time. Hand it Tamahori and his crew for messing up some pretty simple items, from set inconsistencies and geographical issues (see IMDB for more information) to little things like FBI agents riding and talking in a helicopter without headsets to hear one another, plot points that don't really make sense and so on and so forth. It is never explained how the FBI learns about Cage's gift in the first place, and the story just seems rushed and bare bones to the point of being naked. The special effects are downright terrible, and look not unlike those found in Die Another Day or Along Came a Spider. The ending is also abrupt and not fully fleshed out.
Had twenty more minutes been added, the screenplay combed over for inconsistencies and the movie given a more sensible budget, Next could have been a great little action film. As is, it is a decent but forgettable thriller that is more than entertaining enough, but not something you'd go out of your way to see. Of course, I'd watch Next twenty times before I would sit through Cage's other spring flick, Ghost Rider.
Next is recommended to people who want a harmless, mindless action movie, but people who think too hard about movies may want to go in with lower expectations.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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