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Johnny Mnemonic Movie Review

Johnny Mnemonic (1995)

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Written by: William Gibson (screenplay), William Gibson (short story)
Directed by: Robert Longo
Starring: Keanu Reeves, Dolph Lundgren, Dina Meyer, Ice-T, Takeshi Kitano, Henry Rollins, Udo Kier
Rated: R
Watch the trailer

A data courier, literally carrying a data package inside his head, must deliver it before he dies from the burden or is killed by the Yakuza.

This originally was going to be an artsy B movie. The budget increased significantly, but this still has a low budget feel. The setting does the movie a disservice. The entire movie looks like it’s on a stage. This almost seems like a parody. The images of future internet and VR look woefully outdated now. This movie throws a bunch of characters and action in the movie hoping that will hide the numerous shortcomings.
Skip it.

Writer William Gibson is considered to be the father of the cyberpunk genre. This is the first and only screenplay he’s written. This started out as a 1.5 million dollar art film, but Gibson and Longo couldn’t get funding. Expanding the budget and capitalizing on the burgeoning internet attracted a studio hoping for a blockbuster after lead Keanu Reeve’s Speed became a hit..

Keanu Reeves plays Johnny Mnemonic

This starts with an opening text crawl that throws a lot of information at you. It’s a lot of the typical cyberpunk tropes of big corporations running the world and the hapless few that oppose them. This is the future and it’s 2021. We didn’t quite get there in some respects, but surpassed the vision in others.

This movie is certainly very cyberpunk in theme and design, but it just seems hokey. The problem is that it imagines a world that’s too over the top. This aims to look flashy and cyberpunk for no underlying reason. The movie seems hokey. Each scene looks like it takes place on a set that someone hastily threw together to look cyberpunk. There’s no production design.

Johnny Mnemonic access the internet in the future, 2021

Blade Runner is the premiere cyberpunk movie. It keeps things simple and explores a theme. It feels authentic from look to dialog. That’s something Johnny Mnemonic never achieves. The dialog is always stilted and it becomes a mindless action movie. This explores excess in many facets from fashion to design, both the characters and movie itself. Even the script feels forced with one liners as this tries for too much jargon. A lot of the action takes the low budget approach of substituting closeups for more appealing visuals of action.

This really taps into the 90s vision of the future for the internet and virtual reality. The graphics have aged poorly, and this movie uses them often. This is really a mindless B movie. That’s how it started, and despite the infusion of a budget and stars, it never escapes that. This tries to throw everything in when it could have focused on and built this main character. Instead of developing Johnny (Keanu Reeves), we get genius dolphins and assassin preachers. This feels like something written by someone that’s seen a few movies and doesn’t understand what makes them intriguing.

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