(director: Lee Tamahori; screenwriters: Gary Goldman/Jonathan Hensleigh/Paul Bernbaum/based on The Golden Man by Philip K. Dick; cinematographer: David Tattersall; editor: Christian Wagner; music: Mark Isham; cast: Nicolas Cage (Cris Johnson), Julianne Moore (Callie Ferris), Jessica Biel (Liz Cooper), Thomas Kretschmann (Mr. Smith), Tory Kittles (Cavanaugh), José Zúñiga (Security Chief Roybal), Jim Beaver (Wisdom), Peter Falk (Irv); Runtime: 96; MPAA Rating: PG-13; producers: Nicolas Cage/Todd Garner/Norman Golightly/Graham King/Arne Schmidt; Paramount Pictures; 2007)
“A watchable but one hell of a dumb hybrid action and supernatural thriller.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Lee Tamahori (“Die Another Day”/”The Edge”) directs a watchable but one hell of a dumb hybrid action and supernatural thriller, that has gigantic plot holes, risible dialogue, an unsatisfactory twisty premise and an even more unsatisfying ending. It’s loosely based on the 1954 short story The Golden Man by Philip K. Dick and written by Gary Goldman, Jonathan Hensleigh and Paul Bernbaum. The outlandish gimmicky premise shows off the mutant powers of a Las Vegas magician, Cris Johnson (Nicolas Cage), using the stage name Frank Cadillac to work in a seedy casino. Cris has the ability to see two minutes into the future what affects him personally and also the ability to change the outcome of events before they occur. The magician in an aside tells us “Here’s the thing about the future, every time you look at it, it changes, and that changes everything else.” This gives the filmmaker license to keep switching the scenario on us, continually fooling us into thinking something is going down when it’s shortly changed as our boy takes another gander into the future.
To add more funds for his stay in expensive Las Vegas, the magician goes to other casinos to play against the house’s slot machines and blackjack tables. He uses his supernatural powers but keeps a low profile by betting modestly. But his daily life is upset as the magician has come to the attention of the overbearing steely-eyed super FBI agent Callie Ferris (Julianne Moore), who determines he’s their best chance of saving Los Angeles from being blown to smithereens by unidentified European terrorists who smuggled a Russian nuclear device into the country. If this wasn’t enough of a task for the magician, he does some remote viewing and pictures meeting his dream gal in a diner. Sure enough, he does just that and his love interest turns out to be a cutie-pie blonde named Liz Cooper (Jessica Biel) who works part-time as a teacher at an Indian reservation in Arizona. This sharp chic appears to give him the ability to extend his time limit to two hours. Don’t ask why the time limit or what the terrorists are about, that’s just the way it plays out in this crowd-pleasing, glossy, low-tech, lightweight entertainment venture.
The plot gives us the familiar twist of our reluctant hero having to choose between saving his gal or the world. Liz unwittingly gets involved with the nuclear bomb threat and is kidnapped by the terrorists to smoke out Cris. It leads to the inevitable action-packed showdown with the terrorists in a warehouse, as Cris does his remote viewing thing for the FBI sharpshooters to locate the terrorists, his Liz and the bomb. It’s absurd, bizarre and unconvincing; but in this cheesy B-film, at least, Biel, who goes through a number of ordeals, never has her perfect hair out of place. As for Cage and Moore, one doesn’t have to be a fortune teller to know they chose to be in such a lousy film for the money.
REVIEWED ON 4/29/2007 GRADE: C-