Dir. by Robert Longo - 1 hr. 43 min.
by Clayton Hollifield
Based on a William Gibson short story, this movie has a couple of my favorite things. First, it has Keanu Reeves. Despite what you may think of his acting skill, he's racked up a good resume of interesting films over the course of his career, and he's got to get at least a little credit for that. Secondly, this is a mid-90's computer film. It's as if most people knew that we were all largely headed online, but things weren't developed enough to give any clear indication as to what this future would look like.
An easy visual comparison movie is "Hackers," although this story is set in the near future of 2021. But whereas Hackers pitted dirty computer punks against the outdated system and old fogeys, "Johnny Mnemonic" delves more into the class warfare aspect that access to advanced technology inevitably creates. But I have to stop myself, I'm probably making this seem a lot more interesting and deep than the final product is.
The basic plot is thus: Johnny is an information courier, augmented with "wetware" upgrades. Keanu has an 80 GB brain! These couriers are used to transfer sensitive information in the black market, like super-secure data sticks. Johnny needs to pull off one more dangerous transfer in order to get out of the game, but things go south almost immediately. The job entails putting way too much data into Johnny's head, and if he doesn't get it out of there, it'll seep into his brain and kill him. The whole thing is a set-up, and Johnny and his bodyguard Jane (Dina Meyer, of "Starship Troopers" fame) have to hook up with a band of low-tech rebels lead by Ice-T (sporting nearly the exact same look as in "Tank Girl"). In the end, stuff blows up, and a freaking DOLPHIN ends up extracting the info from Keanu's head. Henry Rollins also has a fun role as a really angry doctor named Spider, and there's also an obligatory goggled virtual reality sequence.
Visually, there are interesting aspects to this film. The aforementioned early look at what people thought cyberspace might look like 25 years in the future is kind of cool. I think the 90's cyberspace look is probably going to occupy the same territory as 80's dystopian sci-fi films do. On the downside, this film also picks up on two of the worst trends from the 90's: a complete lack of sexiness to anything (I'll thank the AIDS crisis for that, but Dina Meyer appears to be wearing a burlap sack as a coat for much of the film. I've seen "Starship Troopers, so I know how hot she was in this time period. Why cover that up?), and a weird glossiness to what's supposed to be grimy, seedy areas. People are afraid of dark alleys because they're wet, filthy, weathered, and a little rape-y, but the common approach to those scenarios was to just make everything shiny and light the hell out of it with neon.
This was not a great film, but there are a few interesting elements to it. I giggle a little bit that an iPod now is smarter than Keanu's character in another 10 years. But if you're a big fan of Keanu Reeves, Henry Rollins, or you like 90's computer movies, it's not terrible.
2 / 5 - NF Streaming