Apr 28, 2014

Review: Johnny Mnemonic (1995)

Ah, young Keanu Reeves who looks exactly the same as old Keanu Reeves. There's some about Keanu that I just like and I'm not really sure what it is. It has nothing to do with him being a standup guy and he's honestly not that great an actor since he struggles to display basic emotions at times. He's just got something. By 1995, his action movie credentials were pretty well established with Point Break in 1991 and no one can forget Speed obviously.

Johnny Mnemonic or "just Johnny" is an information smuggler in the year 2026. The way he and his fellow smugglers can do their job is with an implanted hard drive in the brain. An important thing to remember though is that a smuggler cannot exceed the storage capacity of his hard drive, or else the information will seep into the brain or whatever and kill you. Johnny has a maximum capacity of 160 gigabytes and as you can guess, he exceeds his capacity and has a limited amount of time to get that info out of his brain before he's fried.


Genre: action, crime, sci-fi
Directed by: Robert Longo
Produced by: Don Carmody, Staffan Ahrenberg, Victoria Hamburg, etc.
Written by: William Gibson
Music by: Brad Fiedel
Running time: 96 minutes
Production company: TriStar Pictures, Alliance Communications Corporation, Cinévision, etc.
Distributed by: TriStar Pictures, MDP Worldwide, Screen Media Ventures, etc.
Country: Canada, United States
Language: English, Japanese
Budget: $26,000,000
Box office: $52,400,000 (Worldwide)

IMDb entry
Rotten Tomatoes entry

Starring: Keanu Reeves, Dina Meyer, Ice-T, Takeshi Kitano, Denis Akiyama, Dolph Lundgren, Henry Rollins, Barbara Sukowa, Udo Kier, Tracy Tweed, Falconer Abraham, Don Francks, Diego Chambers, Sherry Miller, Arthur Eng, Von Flores, Victoria Tengelis, Warren Sulatycky, Celina Wu



It's pretty clear that Johnny is a selfish person, only thinking of himself. His job is to get the information to its destination safety. However, he's overloaded himself knowingly and that information can now get corrupted. He's only thinking of the money and there are quite a few other moments where his selfishness reveals itself. Keanu is OK at playing the part unless he's supposed to show any sort of emotion. This is where it gets a bit awkward at times. 

Johnny Mnemonic is partly filmed in Montreal and it's kind of depressing to see my home city being used as the setting of a dystopian metropolis. In certain instances, the set design is actually pretty impressive. However, Johnny Mnemonic is one of those movies that tries to make things look futuristic without them really being at all. For example, a regular elevator is given a whole different sound when the door closes to try to hide the fact that it's the same elevator we're all familiar with. It always mystifies me when filmmakers do this.

Japanese actor Takeshi Kitano finds himself as one of the villains in this film, but he isn't very effective truth be told. Because he's made to deliver English lines at certain times which he struggles to do, his character just isn't very threatening. It'd have been way better if he were just to stick to his native Japanese. I'm guessing that wouldn't be possible given that this is a Hollywood movie with Keanu Reeves starring. A Japanese actor with a better handle on English should've been hired instead then. I don't mean to bash Takeshi at all though because he's done some great work and I like the guy. This all falls on whoever made the casting decisions for Johnny Mnemonic.

Dolph Lundgren on the other hand was born to play Karl Honig, who is some kind of cybernetically enhanced street preacher. It actually took me a second before I realized it was him. Honig spouts non-stop Biblical references and kills people by crucifying them. Sounds awesome right? It is. Dolph is just golden here and it's too bad this was his last theatrical release until The Expendables.

I have to say that there are some absolutely ridiculous CGI representations of what it looks like when you "hack your own brain." Maybe you already have some idea of what that looks like, but Johnny Mnemonic shows it in all of its glory for us to learn and enjoy. The "computer science" in JM is definitely pretty hard to take seriously. There's even a virtual reality scene with Keanu furiously trying to contact people that in all seriousness shows a bit of what could be possible with VR, minus some of the more ridiculous stuff.

It's good to know that even if society breaks down, we can be sure to have companies like AT&T around to allow us to still make calls. Silly product placement aside, Johnny Mnemonic at its best is mostly uninteresting and at its worst is easy to scoff at. The best thing I can say about this movie besides Dolph Lundgren is the set design when it actually pulls it off. The best of the set design actually reminds me of the kind of thing you'd see in a Terry Gilliam movie.



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