If the protagonist of Next were to use his ability to peer two minutes into the future before watching Next, he'd probably have enough to go on to skip it altogether. That's how long it takes to tell the movie will be high on concept and low on content. To find out just how bad it gets, though, he'd have to watch the whole film.
Nicolas Cage plays Cris Johnson, a Las Vegas entertainer disguising his true abilities with a cheesy stage show. FBI Agent Callie Ferris (Julianne Moore) has decided that the best way to stop a smuggled nuclear bomb from detonating somewhere in the U.S. is to use Johnson's talent for prognostication. Never mind the fact that he can only see two minutes into the future, giving her a very brief window in which to act if he were to see the bomb. That's about the level of logic at which this film operates.
Callie tries to enlist Cris, who refuses for reasons never made entirely clear, and so begins a cross-state chase with both the FBI and a pack of terrorists on our hero's trail. Along the way he meets generic love interest Liz (Jessica Biel) who appears to be able to alter his abilities, and is also good for moving the plot along by getting captured or coerced.
The movie finds its groove whenever Cris displays his abilities, using his mini-forecasting to figure out just how to evade authorities at a casino or dodge falling obstacles down a cliffside. Unfortunately, that's not enough to make up for flat dialogue, massive plot holes (if it takes Johnson two minutes to view what happens in the future, won't the two minutes have arrived by the time he's viewed it?), and subpar acting from Moore, of all people, who feels like she's trying to play Clarice Starling again, but just can't summon the energy.
Other flaws stifle the film's potential, such as special effects that look as if someone arrived to pick them up a month early. Lee Tamahori directs with energy, but relies on overbearing music to get his point across. The script, by a gaggle of action writers including Paul Bernbaum, Gary Goldman, and Jonathan Hensleigh, comes off as an unintentional parody of a thriller, rather than a sophisticated adaptation of a Philip K. Dick mindbender.
Cage once again demonstrates that even in a bad film, he's eminently watchable, as when Cris calmly tries to ask out Liz while fighting her ex using his pre-cog kung fu. Ultimately, though, all that does is make you wish you were watching a better Nicolas Cage film.
The ending is probably going to be a point of contention for many filmgoers. Without giving too much away, it either comes off as an enormous cop-out or brilliant sleight-of-hand. The problem is, by the time you get there, you just don't care anymore.
Next is yet another case of missing the Philip K. Dick forest for the shiny high-concept trees. Stronger adaptations like Blade Runner or Minority Report mine the deeper issues raised by Dick's conceits while others, like Total Recall (also co-scripted by Goldman) at least supplement their premise with good action and an engaging script. Next simply says "wouldn't it be cool if?" and hopes that the plot, character, and dialogue will take care of themselves. They really don't.
I predict... you'll be seeing a trailer for Spider-Man 3.