Johnny Mnemonic (1995): The Future is, Well, It’s Something – Review

Setting the 90s Tone

The year is 1995. Grunge is in full swing, the Discman is the peak of portable music technology, and dial-up internet is frustrating people worldwide. In the cinematic world, we were introduced to the cyberpunk-ish “Johnny Mnemonic”, a film so quintessentially 90s that you half expect Keanu Reeves to challenge the main villain to a game of Pogs at the climax.

The Overstuffed Plot (or lack thereof?)

Diving into the plot feels like trying to dive into a kiddie pool filled with Jell-O. Keanu Reeves stars as Johnny, a ‘data courier’ who transports sensitive information via a chip in his brain. In an era where today’s kids wonder if a floppy disk is the ‘save’ icon in 3D, Johnny’s brain can store an astonishing…wait for it…80 gigabytes. Yes, folks, a whopping 80GB in the future makes you an invaluable asset. Someone should’ve told the writers about cloud storage.

Cast and Characters: They Tried?

Beside Keanu, who does his best to maintain a singular facial expression (Is it confusion? Pain from the 80GB weighing him down?), we have Dina Meyer as a bodyguard named Jane and Takeshi Kitano playing a Yakuza boss who’s chasing Johnny for his neural cargo. And let’s not forget a cybernetic-enhanced Dolph Lundgren chasing after Johnny as the psychotic ‘Street Preacher’. Dolph’s role feels like the director threw darts at a wall filled with random antagonist ideas.

Cyber-Style and Subtlety:

“Johnny Mnemonic” was directed by an artist – Robert Longo, and it shows. The movie does have a certain visual flair. But where it aims to be stylish and edgy, it often comes off as trying too hard. The neon-soaked dystopia filled with 3D internet (which looks like a bad VR game from the 90s) is so heavy-handed that it makes “Blade Runner” look like a subtle indie documentary by comparison.

Behind-the-scenes Cyber-Confusion:

The production details of “Johnny Mnemonic” are nearly as wild as the film itself. William Gibson, who is a major name in the cyberpunk genre, penned both the source material and the screenplay. However, despite Gibson’s involvement, the film differs significantly from the original short story. The director Longo had never helmed a movie before (or after). And the behind-the-scenes tension between him, the studio, and Gibson was apparent. Gibson’s vision of a nuanced dystopian future was given the Hollywood treatment, resulting in a jumbled, campy mess. The internal wrangling led to multiple edits and reshoots. In fact, there exists an international cut of the film that many argue is superior to the North American release, though let’s be real – it’s like saying one unicorn floatie is more realistic than the other.

Keanu Reeves: The Pre-Neo Neo:

It’s quite interesting to see Reeves in this role, especially considering he’d later become synonymous with the cyberpunk genre thanks to “The Matrix”. Here, he’s a prototype Neo, complete with leather jackets and a bewildering environment, but minus the cool shades and bullet-dodging abilities.


So, to wrap it all up in a neon-lit, cyber-tastic package, “Johnny Mnemonic” is an ambitious yet flawed representation of the future, through a distinctly 90s lens. It’s the kind of film best enjoyed with friends, plenty of snacks, and a sense of humor. For all its faults, it provides an amusing glimpse into how the past saw the future. Just remember to clear some space in your brain (but no more than 80GB) to fully appreciate it.

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