© 2007 Ray Wong
There seems to be a recent surge of adaptations based on Philip Dick's literary work. Based on his novel, The Golden Man, this movie boasts a preposterous premise and a subpar plot.
Cris Johnson (Nicolas Cage) is a garden variety Vegas magician. He lives a low-key existence until an FBI agent, Callie Ferris (Julianne Moore), is hot on his trail. It seems that Agent Ferris believes Cris has the ability to see the future, and she needs his help to find a nuclear bomb in Southern California. The fact is, Cris does have that ability -- only that he can only see up to two minutes of his own future. Except for mysterious woman -- he keeps seeing her in his vision; he knows he will meet her, just not when.
Cris would have nothing to do with the government or espionage. He just wants to live a quiet life. Unfortunately, an incident at a casino reveals his true ability to both the FBI and the "bad guys." Then he meets his dream girl, whose name is Liz (Jessica Biel), and he asks her to take him out of town. When the FBI arrives, Cris convinces Liz to help him escape. Unfortunately, Liz gets kidnapped by the terrorists. Seeing in his vision what will happen to Liz, Cris has no choice but help Ferris find the perpetrators.
Nicolas Cage (Grindhouse) needs to take an advice from me and not his agent: stop making these action films. They may have made him a very, very rich action hero, but I believe Cage is a much better actor than that. His performance in Adaptation proved it. Here, he is playing the same mindless roles that have absolutely no depths in their character. And what's it with his hair? It's distractingly bad.
Julianne Moore (Children of Men) plays another hard-boiled agent but her performance here is superficial and unsatisfying, compared to her freedom fighter in Children of Men. I can't really fault her since her character is underdeveloped. Jessica Biel (The Illusionist) has a far better role playing Liz, a confident teacher who reluctantly gets involved. She shows enough vulnerability and complexity to make us care.
The supporting cast includes Thomas Kretschmann (The Celestine Prophecy) as the terrorist leader, Jose Zuniga (Prison Break) as a casino manager, and Tory Kittles (Dirty) as FBI agent Cavanaugh. They all do their job except their characters are nothing more than pawn pieces. The biggest wasted cameo belongs to Peter Falk (The Thing About My Folks), who, despite getting major billing, appears only in a brief scene that adds nothing to the story.
In addition to the mediocre performances and cardboard characters, the script by Gary Goldman (Navy Seals), Jonathan Hensleigh (The Punisher) and Paul Bernbaum (Hollywoodland) have turned Philip Dick's story about destiny and responsibility into a mindless action flick. The dialogue is cheesy, and the plot is nonsensical and forced. The characters lack real motivations and emotions, and the relationship between Cris and Liz is unconvincing.
There are so many plot holes I forget to count. I can understand that in a sci-fi story like this, they don't necessarily need to explain everything. However, some of the plot elements are simply there to move things along -- they are illogical and require a huge dose of suspension of disbelief. And the "trick ending" is a pure rip-off, making me realize I just wasted 96 minutes of my life.
Director Lee Tamahori (xXx: State of the Union) is a master of action flicks, and he does a generally good job putting all the pieces together, despite the poor script. The pacing is good and it has enough tension to keep things going and the audiences interested. It's fast-paced enough to prevent the audiences to stop and think. The special effects are rather low-grade, however, especially during the final climactic sequence. We can't help but think: "They spent all that money on this?"
For its flat characters, preposterous plot, cheesy dialogue and unsatisfying ending, I will leave you with this final word: NEXT.
Stars: Nicolas Cage, Julianne Moore, Jessica Biel, Thomas Kretschmann, Tory Kittles, José Zuniga, Peter Falk
Director: Lee Tamahori
Writers: Gary Goldman, Jonathan Hensleigh, Paul Bernbaum (based on novel, The Golden Man, by Philip K. Dick)
Distributor: Paramount Pictures
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for intense sequences of violent action, some sexuality and language
Running Time: 96 Minutes
Script – 5
Performance – 5
Direction – 6
Cinematography – 7
Editing – 7
Production – 7
Total – 6.1 out of 10