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Sci-fi writer Philip K Dick’s works have had a turbulent onscreen journey.  For every classic like Bladerunner there is a clunker like Paycheck. Dick’s existential cyberpunk leanings seem to have been a difficult concept for screenwriters to grasp, muddying the well of ideas in his books. Next shares the expository voiceover of Bladerunner’s original cut - the only comparison made in a very inconsistent film adding yet another layer to the sci-fi scrapheap.
Nicolas Cage is Cris Johnson, a Las Vegas magician who can ’see’ two minutes into the future.  Burdened by this ‘gift’, he does all he can to avoid authorities who want his power for their own ends.  When FBI agents, led by Callie Ferris (Julianne Moore), ask him for help with a nuclear terrorist threat, he goes on the run.  In between dodging the FBI and the terrorists, he falls in love with Liz (Jessica Biel), who appears able to break through his mysterious visions. 
Next’s intriguing concept becomes overburdened with unnecessarily explosive pyrotechnics.  By turning the low key short story into an action extravaganza things quickly become confusing.  Johnson’s psychic gift feels too light weight for the grafted on ’world in peril’ scenario.  Lee Tamahori’s direction unfortunately focuses on the gunplay rather than the various dilemmas Johnson faces.  Despite the films’ epic aspirations, the villains never feel like a genuine threat, always remaining in the background.  The missing sense of urgency robs the film of any constant traction.
The credibility breaking plot is underscored with very uneven performances.  Nicolas Cage makes his laconic anti-hero a very different kettle of fish and is the best thing in the movie.  Julianne Moore wears an expression of complete boredom throughout, with a confusingly lifeless performance considering her talents. Jessica Biel makes for a beguiling companion to Cage’s strange magician - although it’s becoming wearying that every action film seems to insist on having a ‘romantic angle’.  Peter Falk is shamefully wasted as Johnson’s friend with a pointless cameo role undeserving of his talents.
It’s sad that a definitive version of a Philip K Dick story has yet to be made as Hollywood turns his works into incomprehensible messes.  The conclusion is an infuriating cop-out and only highlights the fact that no matter how good Nicolas Cage can be, even he cannot make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.
Rating out of 10:  2

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