The ‘90s brought us – among other things – many a cyber-thriller: The Net, The Lawnmower Man, Virtuosity, The Thirteenth Floor, and hell, even The Matrix. But in 1995, director Robert Longo made a movie to stand the test of time. Johnny Mnemonic is that movie, and while Longo might have believed his gripping tale of Keanu Reeves with too much information in his brain (I call bullshit right out of the gate) was good, it’s actually shit. Entertaining shit, but shit nonetheless.
Keanu Reeves is Johnny, a courier with a hard drive in his head. It’s “the future,” which means the fashion is awful; there’s no middle ground between the haves and the have-nots; and the fact that technology exists lets filmmakers just make up a bunch of horse shit. Namely, corporations rule the world, and corporate espionage takes the form of people like Johnny. The movie starts off with Johnny downloading files from a bunch of scientists who are trying to discretely move the information out of their employer’s hands. The company they’re stealing from sends lackeys to take care of the matter, but of course, Johnny gets out before they can capture him and take his head off.
Let’s stop here for a moment to think about something important. Throughout the whole movie, some of the suspense is supposed to come from the fact that Johnny put more data in his head than he has room for. He can hold 160GB, but the stuff he just shoved in his noggin takes up 320GB. So…right. If you have a 160GB hard drive, guess what you can’t put on it? 320GB of data. And it’s not like the excess can just go sit in a different area of his brain or something, so basically, the entire plot makes absolutely no sense. Oh, but he gets nosebleeds and has to sit down sometimes, so disregard everything I just said.
I’ll just spoil the tension I’m sure we’re all feeling right now and tell you what he’s carrying: the cure for NAS.
Nerve Attenuation Syndrome (NAS) has affected a whole lot of people in the future, and there’s no known cause or cure. Well, as it turns out, good ol’ Johnny just downloaded the cure for NAS into his head, and the corporation that’s been turning over more profit by treating the disease rather than curing it is pissed. It’s a good thing Johnny has people to rely on, such as the hot redhead from Starship Troopers and Henry Rollins with a pair of nerd glasses and a lab coat; otherwise he’d be up shit creek without a digital paddle to wade through all the ridiculous nonsense in this movie.
Along the way, Johnny runs into some colorful characters, such as the leader of the digital/information/technology/?? resistance, who just happens to be played by none other than Ice Motherfuckin’ T. Don’t get too excited, though; all he really does is stand around a lot and yell at people to get their shit together. Personally, I like Dolph Lundgren more. He plays Street Preacher, a weird dude with all kinds of cybernetic implants in just about every body part. He’s also a hit man for hire, which leads me to wonder why he bothers with the preacher guise. If he’s just going to end up putting a knife through someone’s hand, skip the theatrics. Everyone knows he’s not a real preacher, but I still wonder if he actually goes around trying to convert people to whatever bizarre form of Christianity he’s faking. I doubt it, since I only ever saw him in his church by himself with like 800 candles lit around him. But he did teach Henry Rollins to never wear fake glasses or pretend like he’s not a bad ass again, so he can do whatever he wants.
The cast is rounded out by Udo Kier – who dies a gruesome death again (big surprise) – and Beat Takeshi. I have no idea why Beat Takeshi is in Johnny Mnemonic, and I’m not sure that he had a clue, either. He looks pretty bewildered most of the time, and when he’s not, it’s because he’s dead. At least he didn’t shoot himself in the head this time.
There are so many examples of laughable, only-in-the-‘90s kind of techno-bullshit that I don’t know where to start. Oh, wait, yes I do:
Earlier, I mentioned The Lawnmower Man, and I was severely disappointed that the ending wasn’t Johnny doing battle with Pierce Brosnan’s former lawn care provider. The setting really made me think it was going to happen. Fuck you, Johnny Mnemonic.
What happens instead is Johnny has to hack inside his own head and then feed the information about NAS through a dolphin who’s also a war veteran. There it is, folks; I couldn’t make that shit up if I tried. Do I really need to expound on that scenario? Tough shit if you think so, because that’s the best sentence I’ve had the privilege of writing in quite some time, so I’ll just leave it at that.
When it’s all said and done, I can’t lie; I enjoy Johnny Mnemonic. But I don’t enjoy it like I do a fine wine at dinner. Instead, it’s more like watching someone try to parallel park for two hours while traffic backs up behind them and about thirty people start getting super pissed. I may be kind of lame for watching it, but at least I had nothing to do with it, and there’s worse I could do with two hours.