Home Year 1995 Johnny Mnemonic (1995)

Johnny Mnemonic (1995)

On occasion Keanu liked to pretend he was a cat and make himself look big.
On occasion Keanu liked to pretend he was a cat and make himself look big.

Twitter Plot Summary: Future courier Johnny has to contend with 320GB of data in his head and bad guys wanting it.

Five Point Summary:

1. The 90s version of the 2020s looks awful.
2. Dina Meyer is the only one who’s vaguely competent.
3. Dolph Lundgren needs more to do as this character.
4. That thumb wire thing is pretty cool, thinking about it.
5. A cyberpunk dolphin?!

Welcome to the 1990s interpretation of what the technology of 2021 will look like. Unfortunately for filmmakers of the 90s, their interpretation of the future looks just like a CD-ROM video game, at best/worst exactly like a non-pixelated Tex Murphy adventure. It’s into this 90s-tinged future that we meet the cardboard presence of Keanu Reeves – because to call him wooden would be offensive to trees.

So the plot goes like this: Reeves is Johnny, a courier capable of transporting information via a data port into his brain. He has a max limit of 160GB, which was quite a lot of memory in an era where most home computers maxed out with 2GB hard drives and Cinemania 95 was the best resource for movie information. He’s soon on the run as undesirable types close in around him to use the data for nefarious means, while true to form Johnny attempts to get it into the hands of those who will use the information for good.

Camp fun is provided by Udo Kier as the man responsible for getting Johnny into the mess in the first place, and Dolph Lundgren as Karl the God-fearing assassin, showing off long flowing locks and a beard that any viking would be proud of. Lundgren treats the script with a level of knowingness that may have gone unnoticed at the time. With 20 years of hindsight, his performance is a veritable work of genius. It’s a shame therefore that he wasn’t used in a much larger capacity.

The only person who seems to take all of this seriously is Dina Meyer, and somehow she manages to make something worthwhile from the material she’s given. It’s no wonder she’s one of the people casting directors go to when they want somebody to treat a science fiction role with respect, no matter how poor the rest of the production may be.

Halt, sinners! The best thing Dolph Lundgren has ever done. Maybe.
Halt, sinners! The best thing Dolph Lundgren has ever done. Maybe.

It’s arguable whether Henry Rollins is being entirely serious in his role as a street doctor who engages in a puzzled stare-off with Johnny around the halfway mark, but then as it’s generally not very good – everyone seems to spend half their time having a mini-spasm – it’s perhaps best to take from it what we can. Thus, he is an unexpected source of humour, whether this is intentional or not doesn’t make much difference.

The future dystopia in which the story is set in a world direct from the imagination of cyberpunk legend William Gibson, although it’s not given much room to breathe beyond the Lo-Teks and the story being set almost entirely at night, utilising a black, blue and green colour palette. You’re probably better off sticking with Gibson’s source material to be fair.

Once the cyberpunk dolphin shows up, you’ve probably already invested too much time in it to make a quiet exit, and you’ll probably have the same reaction as Johnny – one of gobsmacked acceptance of the situation. Even after all of the lazy action sequences, the typically generic soundtrack and the mostly bad acting, it’s that dolphin that will make or break it. Or you could just delight in the 1995 perspective on what the 2020s might look like, that’s 90 minutes of entertainment in itself.

Score: 2.5/5


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