Science fiction and fantasy                                            

Johnny Mnemonic

directed by Robert Longo

In real life information overload may leave us bewildered, but in this movie it can also be fatal. In 2021 Johnny (Keanu Reeves) is a mnemonic courier, which means he smuggles data using an implant that plugs directly into his brain. Short of money and keen to leave the business, he accepts one last job from his agent. But the job goes wrong and his clients are attacked by the Yakuza. Johnny winds up a hunted man, overloaded with dangerous information that people are willing to kill to retain.

The Free City of Newark is a grungy dystopia where life is cheap and punk is back in fashion. In this badly-dressed place Jane (Dina Meyer) is looking for work as a bodyguard. She's not having much luck because she relies on cheap implants and she suffers from shaking. She agrees to help Johnny out in the hope of getting paid well, but even if he can escape the Yakuza and the other killers that are hired to pursue him Jane's payment isn't secure. Johnny will die if he doesn't download what's in his head.

Faced with the forces of a powerful corporation with eyes everywhere, Johnny's best allies are those who live outside the corporate world. A plague is spreading, known as NAS or Nerve Attenuation Syndrome. A back-street doctor known as Spider (Henry Rollins), who deals in neural implants, may know how to help him. If Spider can't help there's J-Bone (Ice-T), the leader of a group of outsiders who call themselves the Lo Teks.

Rollins and Ice-T appear to have been cast for their fame as musicians rather than any acting ability, and they struggle in their roles. Further evidence that acting wasn't made a priority by the moviemakers is provided by Keanu Reeves, who makes one of the most wooden performances of his career. It's as though in a desperate effort to be cool and cutting-edge the traditional elements that go into making a decent movie have been abandoned. The dialogue is full of pointless and silly cyber-gobbledegook. Any scene involving computers is filled with gaudy animations that serve no purpose. On top of that there's a lot of violence, which is usually accompanied with an overdose of cheesy effects and overstated melodrama.

As the Street Preacher, Dolph Lundgren is as ripe (and hairy) as century-old Camembert, and less watchable. His cringingly bad "Come to Jesus" catchphrase is typical of the sort of naff dialogue this film is riddled with. Johnny Mnemonic matches a ridiculous concept with corny dialogue and some awful acting. It's a stinker, its only saving grace its short running time.

Film Details

Decade: 1990s

Categories: Films

  Science fiction

Classification: 15

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1 star rating

Review © Ros Jackson