Revisiting Johnny Mnemonic (1995)

Plot: Johnny (Keanu Reeves) is a data courier who has a secret stash of information implanted into his mind. However, the data will kill Johnny if he cannot retrieve it within 48 hours. Accompanied by physically enhanced bodyguard Jane (Dina Meyer), Johnny sets out to acquire the passwords he needs to save himself. Worse yet, he is hunted by gangster Shinji (Denis Akiyama) and businessman Takahashi (Takeshi), both of whom seek the data Johnny possesses.


Here’s my sordid confession of the week… I had never seen John Mnemonic until a few weeks ago. At the time of release, I remember it being referred to as Johnny Moronic and it was generally panned by the majority of critics and even now is sitting at 13% Fresh rate on Rotten Tomatoes, so it never really enticed me.


I picked it up on DVD a while back out of sheer curiosity and figured it was time to see my boy Keanu in action.


It certainly isn’t without its flaws but there is still a lot to enjoy in this weird and entertaining oddity of a film. How can you not love Dolph Lundgren is one of his wackiest roles to date as the Street Preacher? He is hilariously over the top but clearly relishing every moment and it’s one of his most bonkers roles to date.


Keanu is rather terrible though and the majority of the performances are quite wooden; I couldn’t help but get the feeling that few people actually understood what the Hell was going on.


The visuals are quite dated by today’s standards and some of the ideas seem quaint although apparently this did introduce us to the iPhone which IMDB has in its Trivia section: “During the scene in the back room of Crazy Bob’s Computer Store, it sounds like Johnny asks for an “iPhone”, twelve years before it was launched. While it would still be cute if the scriptwriter of a 90’s cyberpunk movie had just made up a word, which would later become the name of a ubiquitous piece of information technology, what Johnny asks for is actually an “Eyephone”, an early head-mounted interface designed by Jaron Lanier (in fact, Johnny calls it a “Thomson Eyephone”, a reference to the fact that Lanier’s patent was bought by Thomson Electronics).”


At 96 minutes long it gets going quickly and doesn’t really slow down, taking you on a wild ride. How many films can say they have a dolphin at the end that is telepathic… or something? I’ll admit by that stage I’d stopped caring about what was going on but at least it wasn’t afraid to take risks.


It certainly wouldn’t get made today (like so many movies from the 90’s) but Johnny Mnemonic has plenty to entertain; I loved the idea of the laser whips and there is enough action to keep genre fans happy.


I’m still not sure how I feel about Johnny Mnemonic; it had some cool ideas and a great cast so it’s definitely worth watching but I can totally understand why it was dumped on at release despite how fun it is.