What would you do with the power to see two minutes into the future?
I think I'd use it to make sure there's actually milk in the fridge before getting up. That always sucks.
If I were feeling really ambitious, I'd see what my friends were going to say in advance so I'd have plenty of time to insult them better. They would get served so hard they'd call me Sampras.
In "Next," Nicolas Cage uses his powers of prescience for little more than that. He's got a poorly attended Vegas magic show and allows himself minor wins in the casinos. Never against other players, though, and never any big payoffs -- that would be wrong. It's only OK to steal from the house in moderation.
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Despite his caution, he's somehow caught the eye of FBI agent Julianne Moore. Perhaps she's psychic herself. She's definitely insane, and not harmlessly so, as the agency is aware of a European terrorist plot to nuke LA, and she's convinced the only way to stop them is to enlist Cage's spectacular ability to predict the far-flung future of 120 seconds from now.
Cage can see one thing further away: the arrival of Jessica Biel in a local cafe. He doesn't know why he can see this stranger days ahead of time, just that he can, and when she finally shows up, he runs through the permutations of what he could say to her until he hits on a way to break through her brassy exterior.
Those are the moments when "Next" is great. Seeing Cage screw up until he finds something that sticks is funny and bright and makes you wish you had a way to avoid all the mistakes of daily life.
Sadly for us, there's a thriller wrapped around the concept, and not a very good one. "Minority Report" was another action movie adapted from a Philip K. Dick story that dealt with the power and consequences that come from seeing the future, but its world was as interesting as its idea. In "Next," the characters say exactly what they mean at all times, Moore seems to equate stone-faced barking with authority, and the terrorists are so generic one of the Russians actually wears a shirt that says "USSR" in the middle of a job -- and in Cyrillic, no less.
He may as well be wearing a shirt with the ghost of Stalin flipping off Ronald Reagan. I mean, what's the equivalent of that? A 12-year-old trying to sneak into a bar while wearing a "Kim Possible" backpack? It's D-U-M dumb.
But, still, those time-seeing scenes, they're pretty good.
It's just too bad there's not much else to go with them, including an ending that's meant to be a traditional Dickish brain-buster, but unfolds more like the venerated sci-fi author as imagined by a man who doesn't actually have an imagination.
On the plus side, Hollywood makes a new Dick movie every couple years. At that rate, it'll only be a couple centuries before they run out of his material and have to start over. Maybe then this concept will get the treatment it's due. I'm marking my calendar.