Las Vegas magician Cris Johnson has a secret. He can see the future. Two minutes of the future, to be exact. He’s had this ability since he was three. And wanting to avoid being treated like a lab rat by the government, he keeps his magic tricks cheap and his casino winnings small. But the government comes calling anyway. FBI agent Callie Ferris has been keeping an eye on the potential soothsayer for a while and thinks his talent can help her track down terrorists with a nuclear bomb.
Cris wants to avoid the FBI and has the ability to do so—staying, well, two minutes ahead of their every move. But he’s also recently met a beautiful girl he believes is his destiny. When she gets pulled into danger, Cris has no choice but to push his gift further than he’s ever done before.
Cris is, at his core, a man who will go out of his way for the well-being of others. He precogs a horrible event and moves to stop a man from shooting two people in a casino. When trying to outrun the FBI, he chooses to rescue an agent from a deadly situation rather than make his escape. Spider-Man-style, he decides to walk away from what he wants most in life in order to save the lives of others. Liz also steps away from what is safe in order to help Cris. (She’s a dedicated teacher who works with underprivileged kids.)
Cris has a mentor-like relationship with an older man named Irv. And he gives Irv money to help him make it through.
Cris and Liz kiss several times. We know they’ve had sex when we see them in bed with her head on his chest and the sheets pulled up. The camera makes a point of showing us Cris’ shirtless body several times. Liz shows cleavage. She steps out of the shower wrapped in a towel. And she also walks about her hotel room dressed in underwear and a T-shirt.
Vegas showgirls show lots of leg and cleavage in their stage costumes. One woman makes a show out of adjusting her breasts inside her top.
Whether in Cris’ visions or in real life, violence ranges from a nuclear blast to shootings to knifings. Liz is tied to a wheelchair with dynamite strapped to her chest. In one version of what could happen, the explosives detonate. There are gun battles between the FBI and the terrorists. Vehicles are flipped and blown up, a helicopter is downed with a missile and there’s lots of automatic gunfire with many people shot. Several are shot in the forehead. A casino worker takes a bullet to the knee before the shooter pulls a knife and moves to cut his throat. Liz sends her truck plummeting over a steep hillside, striking a water tower and causing an avalanche that rains rocks, farm equipment and massive logs down on FBI agents.
Cris tries to outrun a train and causes a massive crash. With his two-minute buffer he tries again and accomplishes the feat by traveling at 120 mph instead of 100. FBI agents use a metallic brace (à la Clockwork Orange) to hold Cris’ eyes open and force him to look at a TV screen.
The f-word is mouthed once and the s-word makes about a half-dozen appearances (along with at least one mention in French). A handful of other profanities include “d–n,” “h—” and “b–ch.” The names Jesus and Christ are used as profanity once each, and God’s is combined once with “d–n.”
A terrorist downs pills from a prescription bottle. The FBI gives Liz a bottle of drugs, and she slips a pill into Cris’ juice (but stops him from drinking it). On several occasions Cris drinks a martini and smokes cigarettes.
Cris uses his ability to cheat at cards and roulette at a casino. When the cameras notice, he makes his way out and steals a car.
Next is another one of those superhero-style flicks that has appealed to the American psyche as of late. This time we set our sights on a guy who can see a few minutes into the future (instead of a few days into the past like in Déjà Vu). It’s a fun cinematic twist that allows him—and us—to see a course of action and its outcome before he makes his actual choice.
Putting aside the debate as to whether or not it’s actually healthy to want super powers, let’s indulge the broader concept for a moment. It certainly could be useful to be able to see into your future. It would help with those big decisions. I can think of a car I sure wouldn’t have bought. And what about all those foolish little mistakes you could avoid? Why, it would even help when picking a movie.
Picture yourself standing in front of the ticket window, looking at the listings and wondering if this movie Next is worth your time. Is it a good movie for that first date? Should my kids see this thing? Your precognitive mind flashes forward, let’s say, 90 minutes. Schwip. And the film’s content flows quickly past you.
You see that it’s a love story and a sci-fi actioner that has a hero who lies, steals, smokes, drinks, has sex with a girl he barely knows and breaks the law—but sets aside the most important thing in his life to save others. There are nuclear terrorists, a beautiful girl dripping wet in a towel, blazing guns, massive explosions, at least 30 people killed, three head shots and one slaying via dynamite. There’s a dedicated female FBI agent, cool story ideas with a driving pace and a final twist that’s guaranteed to surprise you (and maybe leave you groaning).
Schwoop. You’re back standing there gazing at the movie listings with the taste of popcorn in your mouth, and a ticket girl rolling her eyes and repeating, “Next!” That’s how it works. You’ve seen the future. Now … you have to choose.
After spending more than two decades touring, directing, writing and producing for Christian theater and radio (most recently for Adventures in Odyssey, which he still contributes to), Bob joined the Plugged In staff to help us focus more heavily on video games. He is also one of our primary movie reviewers.