Johnny Mnemonic is high-tech trash, film as videogame. Scarcely the film Keanu Reeves needed as a follow-up to his commercial breakthrough with Speed , this hardware nerd’s paradise, with its nondescript look, hodgepodge cast and dialogue that seems dubbed even though it likely isn’t, startlingly resembles the polyglot international co-productions of the ’70s, notably the late, unlamented Canadian tax-shelter ventures. This will come as a disappointment to fans of cyberpunk writer William Gibson, who penned the adaptation of his short story.
Set in the year 2021, when vast corporations rule the world, pic features one bit of ingenuity, its premise, which sees Johnny (Reeves) outfitted with a computer chip in his head so that he can smuggle the highly classified contents from Asia to North America. The amount of information he has taken on is enough to make his noggin explode unless he gets downloaded in short order.
Chased by yakuza intent on obtaining the info for a giant corporation, Johnny makes his way to the Free City of Newark, a dismal urban ruin, and endures any number of confrontations, assaults and standoffs from those who might profit from the goods carried by the belligerent young man, notably a vicious man of the cloth impersonated by Dolph Lundgren.
The long-awaited razzle-dazzle of Johnny’s downloading is an extended visual trip that seems intended as a modern equivalent to the stargate sequence in 2001 but comes off as so much graphic doodling.
Absolutely zero human interest is generated by Reeves, who comes off as gruff, hostile and selfish, all in one dimension.
[Pic premiered in Japan, in 113-min. version containing extra footage of Japanese co-star Takeshi. Version reviewed is North American one.]