I Saw A Film!
Set in the far future of 2021, the internet is by this-that time a virtual world we can basically “jack” into with our consciousness alone. Imaginative DMT-inspired trippy lights and colors represent in 1995 what blue lit costumes did for Tron (oh no, I may need to log back into that one) back in ’82. This might be the best version of a William Gibson based world (he did write it after all), but most of the film just can’t hold up. It is especially amusing to realize what a major star Keanu Reeves manages to be, at this time, shortly before his Matrix megastardom, he’s as stiff and seemingly bored as Mick Jagger talking about Satisfaction. Somehow this style worked! It has managed to endure and endear, and it has been satisfying for three silly but very exciting Wick action thrillers. But enough about Reeves.
Johnny Mnemonic has at its center this idea that instead of using devices in hand to transport vital data, we somehow have people with modified brains ready to store the information. However, considering the danger inherent in the process, Johnny had to give up part of his memory to use his brain for the 160 gig upgrade (numbers we never suspected would be widely superseded by our time (we measure our hard-drives in Terabytes now) and our protagonist allows a group to fill his head up to 320 gigs! That fool! We know it’s a problem because Keanu has little seizures, but how does a device that only takes 160 gigs wind up taking double that? It’s not really explained. Doesn’t their software check storage capacity? Just about anything you want to download onto your “deck” will make sure you have the room. Keeping in mind the timing, we don’t yet create couriers to themselves be wifi enabled but we do have refrigerators that will talk to us on our smart phones! Of course, It doesn’t feel quite so futuristic, to have that in an action film. At some point Keanu could stop whatever he’s doing and check his “deck” to see if he needs milk. So, when even William Gibson didn’t get it right, the rest of us can kind of breath a bit easier I suppose. Post apocalypse is easy to predict, but is it as likely as we all like to imagine in our sci-fi? This year taught us that comfort rules over the Road Warrior outfits. 2020 showed us the value of our PJs.
Anyway, the information being chased in JM is at least important. It’s over three hundred gigs of medical data to cure a disease. Not sure why it needs to be so big, maybe the medical nerds were keeping their favorite movies in the same file. Beat Takeshi is after it, in one of his least intimidating and twitchy roles. Ice-T and Henry Rollins have nice roles filling out the “cool” aspect of the cast. Dina Meyers is a bit hard to take at least for the first act of the film (she’s much more relaxed and likeable after she gets some shots in her spine), she was much better as Dizzy in Starship Troopers, she just doesn’t have the Jackie Chan coordination to pull off what she’s supposed to be, even when they have her WWE the bodyguards of the middleman boss of Reeves’s Johnny. Dolph Lundgren has a fun role as an assassin street preacher, but while this thing is Gibson-imaginative, so much of it is rather laughable 25 years on. The parade of recognizable faces, all spouting dialog that lacks any impact due to the chewy nature of the goofy tech talk is fun, but it eventually takes its toll on your attention span. I had techy friends back in the day who basically wet themselves over this film–each of them a Neuromancer fan–but, they also got pretty excited over the fake remote control clown in the wholly forgettable Bryan Brown vehicle F/X. I know, right?
There are some scary hitmen with fancy electric weapons that look ridiculously likely to injure the user, as the solution to stealing the info is to take Johnny’s head. All together Johnny Mnemonic is different and off enough, and loaded with enough star force, to be a pretty fun old future film. It’s not Blade Runner, but it’s definitely a nice prelude to the Matrix before the Matrix got all “intellectualized” and taught in college film courses.
For free on Prime!