Nicolas Cage has had a career that can best be described as erratic. As a performer it would appear he selects his roles in an impulsive and unrelenting manner.
Sometimes these choices pay off (Leaving Las Vegas, Face/Off) and other times they don’t (Ghost Rider, Lord of War). Cage, however, seems to thrive on the unknown and happily rides the wave of surprise that surrounds each new feature he appears in.
From art house to blockbuster to B-grade action flick, Cage is an actor who is either derided or praised for (what appears to be) his reckless approach to choosing his roles but one that I, ultimately, admire him for.
Next sees Cage return to the action genre in a role for which many will mock him (especially when they see his hairstyle). However, while Next may be extremely flawed in areas, it still manages to be a lot of fun.
Cris Johnson (Nicolas Cage) appears to be a run down and second-rate Las Vegas magician. His stage name, Frank Cadillac, certainly doesn’t do much to increase his credibility but behind his cheap parlour tricks and mildly impressive technique lies a secret. Cris can see exactly two minutes into the future. It is a gift he has lived with since childhood and one that has forced him to lead a life of seclusion.
When a terrorist cell threatens to detonate a nuclear device on American soil, Cris is sought out by government agent Callie Ferris (Julianne Moore) who hopes to enlist his help. Fortunately for Cris, being able to see – even just two minutes – into the future will prove to be problematic for the agents and terrorists hunting him down.
Next is an action movie that requires minimal thought in order to be enjoyed. To think too much will ruin it. Cage, armed with his perpetual puppy dog scowl, goes through the motions in an unexcited “be there, done that” manner that may be criticised as lazy but one that I would argue suits the character perfectly. Johnson – after all – can see into the future and, as he exhibits on numerous occasions, is able to determine all possible outcomes for any situation/scenario.
Cage performs wonderfully in action sequences where he engages in hand-to-hand combat with government agents (gracefully dodging their attacks) and in gun battles with the terrorists (walking tall while bullets take out Ferris’ crouching agents). His apparent indifference is rather cool.
Next’s biggest problem is its lack of a genuine villain. There are terrorists, of European and Asian origin; a plan to blow up Los Angeles and a bomb but, sadly, no real “bad guy”. The result; Cris Johnson is unmatched and rather invincible when it comes to the situations he is thrown into. Without a nemesis he – as described above – simply cruises through danger. The terrorists, as a further consequence, come across as uncoordinated and lost at times. They are aware of Johnson, receiving their information from an informant at the start of the film, but the source of this intelligence is never revealed. Could a bad guy have been left on the cutting room floor?
Director Lee Tamahori begins to redeem himself, for the rubbish that was Die Another Day and xXx 2: The Next Level, with some fantastic action sequences – the mountainside scene featured in the trailer being one of them – and the believable relationship he is able to draw from a much younger Jessica Biel and the rather crusty looking Cage.
Sadly, when it comes to the script the film struggles and fails horribly with its conclusion. I was saddened further when I learnt that two prolific scriptwriters from the eighties and nineties were partly responsible. Jonathan Hensleigh (Die Hard: With a Vengeance) and Gary Goldman (Big Trouble in Little China, Total Recall) provide an ending that will infuriate many (something I won’t reveal here) and a script that is a far cry from the quality of the action films they have previously penned.
You’ll either enjoy Next for what it is – a rather mindless action romp – or hate it – for being a flawed generic piece of Hollywood trash. Nicolas Cage, I will agree, has made some bad film choices throughout his career but as far as I’m concerned this isn’t one of them.