Loosely based on a Philip K. Dick short story called "The Golden Man," the baffling thriller Next stars Nicolas Cage as a Las Vegas magician who can see two minutes into the future, enough time to know whether the bread he just put into the toaster will pop up a golden brown. He's pursued by two interested parties: The FBI, which wants to use his powers to foil a rogue nuclear plot, and the Eurotrash bad guys, who want to stop him from stopping them. The fate of Los Angeles hangs in the balance, yet the question lingers: How could seeing two minutes into the future keep a nuclear warhead from being detonated? If the terrorists are more than a block away, it seems like all that Cage could say is "smoke 'em if you got 'em." Of course, the movie provides an answer to that question—sort of—and it involves making up the rules as it goes along, such as the power-magnifying hotness of Jessica Biel for example.


One way to cover up logical inconsistencies is to keep the audience confused, and just getting acquainted with Cage's condition—to say nothing of the terrorists and their obscure motivations—takes some sorting out. Director Lee Tamahori and his screenwriter, Gary Goldman, pull the rug out so often that it's hard to trust the rug was ever there in the first place. A big advantage of Cage seeing the future is that he knows the outcome of his actions before he has to make choices, which helps enormously when he tries out pick-up lines on Biel at a diner. On the run from FBI agents, led by a never-worse Julianne Moore, Cage hitches a ride from Biel to Arizona, but they only get as far as the Grand Canyon before both sides of the law catch up to them.

Next bears some resemblance to another Dick adaptation, Minority Report, about "pre-cogs" who can anticipate murders before they happen, but it doesn't really bother exploring the moral or emotional implications of Cage's power. What must it be like for him to live a life of no surprises? Is seeing the future a blessing or a curse? Cage's glum demeanor suggests the latter, though maybe he's just bummed about appearing in yet another movie that isn't worthy of his volatile talent. Next does have a few fun Rube Goldberg sequences in which Cage slips through a cavalcade of perils, choreographed down to the split second to get him out of trouble. But these short breaks are not enough to alleviate the near-constant state of befuddlement, or forgive an ending so abrupt that it seems like a projectionist's prank.