Film Reviews:

Johnny Mnemonic

(Robert Longo, US, 1995)

Whoever took on the challenge to be the first to adapt a William (Godfather of Cyberpunk) Gibson novel for the big screen was always taking on an unenviable task. You do have to wonder then what was going through the minds of the studio executives at Fox (except "keep it cheap") when they appointed first time feature director and former pop video guru Robert Longo to the job. Gibson himself adapts his short story of the same title but no amount of author input was going to snatch this film from the clutches of the ogre of mediocrity.

[Johnny Mnemonic]Still, you have to admire the casting. In what must still rate as one of the most bizarre collection of cult figures in a single outing, ladies and gentlemen, I present:

Keanu Reeves (human hard drive)

Takeshi Kitano (Yakuza godfather - naturally)

Dolph Lundgren (fascistic preacher!)

Ice-T (luddite anarchist leader)

Henry Rollins (shell-shocked surgeon)

Udo Kier (slimeball, camp - naturally)

all running around in a Syd (Blade Runner) Mead landscape, to a Brad (Terminator) Fidel soundtrack. To be fair to Mr. Mead (who probably wishes his name wasn't associated with this b-movie nonsense) he is only credited as "Visual Consultant". Which, I guess, could have amounted to someone asking Syd "What do you think of the art direction Syd?" to which he may well have replied "Don't ask".

The, open quotes, plot, close quotes, concerns a future courier played by Reeves who carries too much data around inside his head. It contains revolutionary information about a product belonging to Pharmakom (hmm...) that can rid the world of a terrible, technology-induced AIDS-type virus. Of course, this means Pharmakom, the Yakuza, and the luddite anarchists are interested in obtaining Reeves' head - with or without his body attached. And because he is overloaded, Reeves must download the data within 24 hours or his head is likely to explode. Cue lots of running around, dystopian cliches, crass dialogue, cheesy VR computer graphics etc. etc. etc.

Reeves looks somewhat out of place in a script that seems written more for the likes of Schwarzenegger - the constant throw away one-liners totally out of keeping with the character as written. It's cheap-looking nonsense from start to finish, but Lundgren's suitably OTT performance (albeit virtually only a cameo - like most of the named stars) is worth a look; and any film featuring KMFDM on the soundtrack has to be worth a glance at least. 5/10

Rob Dyer (July 2003)

See also:

Countless low-budget SF b-movies that have very few original ideas and even less money

A-Z of Film Reviews