Review: Next (dir. Lee Tamahori, 2007)

You know how movies sometimes make you think certain things are happening, and then one of the characters wakes up and realizes it was all a dream? Used once or twice, this device can be pretty effective, but used too often — or too excessively, like the time the writers on Dallas decided that an entire season’s worth of episodes never took place — it can be the most groan-inducing of gimmicks.

That isn’t exactly what happens in Next, the latest film to be based on one of Philip K. Dick’s trippy, mind-bending stories (in this case, The Golden Man), but it’s pretty close. The film stars Nicolas Cage as Cris Johnson, a man who can see up to two minutes into his own future — and if he doesn’t like what he sees, then he can change his course of action and bring about a different future. But Cris does not merely see his future, as though he were observing it from a distance; he seems to actually experience his future, and it is only after he reaches a bad end that he mentally hits the “reset” button and decides to do things differently.

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The Revenger’s Tragedy / Vengeance is ours, saith Hollywood.

Vengeance is ours, saith Hollywood. This message came through particularly loud and clear during a single week in April, in which the studios released three films about grim, determined vigilantes who seek brutal revenge against their enemies. While those who take the law into their own hands are usually anything but heroic in real life, the protagonists in Kill Bill, The Punisher, and Man on Fire are all presented in more or less sympathetic terms. All of their violent vendettas are portrayed as at least somewhat justified, and there even seems to be a hint of divine sanction hanging over their efforts. All three of them have lost a child, and sometimes other friends and family too, and all three of them have been shot and left for dead by the villains who deprived them of their loved ones. Thus, when all three of them recuperate and set out on their quests for vengeance, it is as though they have risen from the dead to set wrongs right.

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