This is kind of embarrassing. When picking movies to review, I look through various providers to see what they have to offer. I saw Next was available, and thought, “Hey, Nicolas Cage sees the future, plus Rose Byrne! That sounds great!” What I didn’t realize was that I had an entirely different “Nicolas Cage Sees the Future” movie in mind, 2009’s Knowing. So, yes, I recorded the wrong movie. Luckily, this one was pretty terrible too.
Tagline: If you can see the future, you can save it.
More Accurate Tagline: Nicolas Cage owes the government millions of dollars. Let’s see what he’ll do now.
Guilty Party: Whatever part of Nicolas Cage’s brain that decided he needed a castle, an island, a dinosaur skull, and a collection of genuine shrunken heads. Ever since he learned he owned approximately one Scrooge McDuck-sized money tower worth of back taxes, Cage will appear in whatever movie you want, just as long as you meet his price tag. Since recognizable names get movies greenlit, this is a reliable way to get a mid- to low- budget thriller made on a studio’s dime. It’s not going to be the movie you wanted, but at least Cage might go apeshit at some point.
Synopsis: Cris Johnson (Nicolas Cage, presumably insisting that the extraneous H be taken out of his character’s name) is a hard-drinking magician in Las Vegas, performing under the name Frank Cadillac. I was a little annoyed that the character’s name wasn’t actually Frank Cadillac, just because Nicolas Cage’s characters should always be named things like Flame Swordington, Martini Explosion, or Fistfight Karateface. Anyway, he’s a magician who can see two minutes into the future, who uses this ability to amaze tourists, win at gambling, and occasionally to thwart casino robberies.
Here’s the thing though: assaulting a man with a gun is really easy to misinterpret. So Johnson goes on the run from casino security. The FBI, headed up by Callie Ferris (Julianne Moore, dusting off her Clarice Starling impression and making me wonder what addition she needed on her home to take this role) is tracking Johnson. They’ve figured out he can see into the future, but don’t know the limits of his power, and they want to use him to track a missing nuke.
Johnson, however, would rather bang Jessica Biel. It’s worth noting here that Cage was born in 1964 and Moore was born in 1960, making them age-appropriate love interests (plus, Moore is still gorgeous, so it’s not even like that’s an excuse). Biel was born in 1982, so naturally, she’s who Cage will be oozing all over in the romance subplot. Anyway, the one thing Johnson can see farther than two minutes is meeting Biel in some diner at 8:09. He makes the meeting and somehow tricks a woman half his age and who looks like Jessica Biel into getting into a car with him, and remember, he’s Nicolas Cage. I’m not saying Cage is ugly, and the man has kept it admirably tight, but he does look like he’s about five seconds from setting literally everything on fire at all times.
The terrorists who stole the nuke also somehow know about Johnson, and they want him dead. Everything comes together at this little hotel on the Grand Canyon. Johnson seals the deal with Biel (I really wanted to say that), and the terrorists and FBI show up at the same time. The FBI tries to use Biel to turn on Johnson, but apparently, she’s into twitchy guys old enough to be her father and sides with him. Using his superpower, Johnson escapes, but when he saves Ferris (without the power of late ‘90s pop-ska) from some falling logs (don’t ask), the FBI catches him.
They Ludovico him in hopes to get some information, and he gets a vision of Biel hooked up to a bomb in Los Angeles. He agrees to help the FBI, and Biel’s already been kidnapped. You know, you’d think he might have wanted to do something about that before it happened. Oh well, anyway, he gets the license number of their white windowless pedophile van, and tracks the terrorists to this waterfront warehouse. There’s a giant shootout and the good guys win.
Or do they? Nope, he screwed up and a nuke goes off, killing everyone.
Then he wakes up just after sex with Biel and calls up Ferris, telling her he’ll help out with that whole nuke thing.
Life-Changing Subtext: Nuclear armageddon is fine and dandy, just as long as it doesn’t interfere with creepily stalking young women.
Defining Quote: Cris Johnson: “Here’s the thing about the future. Every time you look at it, it changes, because you looked at it, and that changes everything else.” This attempt at profundity is the entire message of the movie: nothing matters. In fact, you’re better off not watching the movie at all! It’s like the screenwriter’s conscience suddenly gained free will and frantically attempted to warn hapless viewers of what was coming.
Standout Performance: Nicolas Cage gets this in every movie he’s in. He even gets it in a few movies he’s not in. I don’t even know how this is possible, but it is.
What’s Wrong: The essential problem with this movie is the whole central conceit. Cage’s character sees two minutes into the future, which lets him head off disaster before it happens. The problem is that this gives us multiple scenes where he’s killed — shot mostly, but he’s also hit by a train, which is how I’m pretty sure the real Cage will go out — so the audience is conditioned to assume any time Cage dies, it’s not real. And it’s not! This turns into the worst twist-ending of all time in the end: It Was All A Dream. So I sat through 45 minutes of bullshit for nothing? Are you fucking laughing at me, Cage?
Flash of Competence: When Cage initially ducks casino security, he does it with a series of deft moves, knowing how both they and the crowd will react. There are no fakeouts, just smooth motions to hide his presence. It’s well-choreographed, and while not particularly thrilling — we know he’s getting out of there — it’s undeniably cool.
Best Scenes: Biel’s character takes Johnson to an Indian Reservation because she teaches there. He instantly starts rambling on about how he wants to meet their shaman, and it’s… uncomfortable. In his rant, he thinks they have power over the atmosphere and can see the future. It’s the kind of well-meaning racism you see out of any white person who owns more than one piece of turquoise jewelry. I wanted her to take him over to some trailer, and be like, “Here’s Jerry, he’s the shaman,” and it’ s just this guy watching Wheel of Fortune and drinking Budweiser.
Cris Johnson tells Biel’s character an old joke, and he gets it wrong. “What did the Zen master say to the hot dog vendor? Make me one with everything.” That’s how the joke goes. Not “I’ll have one with everything.” That doesn’t make a single bit of sense, you nutball.
Johnson briefly escapes FBI custody through karate. It’s the only time Cage busts out any karate — which is good, because if too much karate builds up in your system, it can cause karate-related blood poisoning — and it’s hinted that he’s using his future-sight to do this. And, sorry, that’s a better movie. Nicolas Cage plays a man who can only see one punch into the future? And it’s called Future Punch? Do not be shocked if Rodrick Rand makes that flick in the Blankverse.
Transcendent Moment: As any student of cinema knows, the various brown peoples of the world exist to tell white people the painfully obvious things that, for some reason, white people can’t see for themselves. In this case, some of Biel’s students want her to know that Johnson is totally into her. They can tell because of the way he looks at her. And it cuts over to Cage, and he has this confused and sleepy look on his face, like someone just woke him up by screaming, “MARTIAN COLONOSCOPY!” and he’s still trying to process what the fuck that means.
I might not have recorded the correct Nicolas Cage, but Next is the next best thing. That really should have been the tagline.