Given the number of attempts, surprisingly few really good movies have been made from the writings of sci-fi visionary Philip K. Dick (BLADE RUNNER, MINORITY REPORT, A SCANNER DARKLY). Most range from merely middling (IMPOSTOR, TOTAL RECALL) to downright awful — remember PAYCHECK? This lazy, incoherent adaptation of Dick's strange short story "The Golden Man," however, just might be the worst. It takes only the central character from the source material — a mutant human who can see several minutes into his own future — and throws away everything that made the story interesting.
Cris Johnson (Nicolas Cage), aka Las Vegas clairvoyant "Frank Cadillac," uses his intentionally tacky lounge act to make a living while disguising the fact that he really can see two minutes into his own future. But not everyone in the audience is buying the fake-mentalist act: FBI counterterrorism agent Callie Ferris (a woefully miscast Julianne Moore) knows real "patterns of advanced awareness" when she sees them, and she needs his help on a little job she's been working on: A 10-kiloton WMD has fallen into the hands of a pack of eurotrash terrorists who, for some undisclosed reason, have their hearts set on nuking L.A. Even though she knows Cris' clairvoyance only extends to a couple of minutes into the immediate future, Callie thinks Cris can use his severely limited skill to help her find the device and save eight million lives. He, however, refuses to be treated like a science project and goes on the lam with his new girlfriend, schoolteacher Liz Cooper (Jessica Biel), hotly pursued by both the FBI and the terrorists.
Three big problems plague this misbegotten mess. First, for much of the movie Cris is running from the good guys, who only want to prevent the rest of us from a nuclear holocaust. Secondly, Cage's age-defying look — the uncertain hairline, the dyed eyebrows, the teeth — has reached the point where he's become troubling to look at. Worst of all, director Lee Tamahori repeatedly stages a dramatic event — Cris getting shot in the chest or smashed by a speeding train — only to rewind the action and reveal that the mayhem was nothing more than just one of Cris' premonitions. The first time, it's a legitimate "Gotcha!" When it happens again, it's tremendously irritating. The third time Tamahori hauls this cheap shot out of his near-empty bag of tricks, you'll cease to believe in anything that happens on screen and most likely give up on the movie altogether. leave a comment --Ken Fox