The Film Opens With The Opening Crawl To End All Opening Crawls
Before the audience even meets Keanu Reeves, before they’re thrust into the dystopian world of Johnny Mnemonic, they’re introduced to a multi-paragraph opening crawl. Despite providing audiences with all the information they need to “understand” Johnny Mnemonic, reading the entire thing will only leads to confusion. The crawl is full of phrases like: LoTeks! Corporate overlords! The Yakuza! Hackers! Black Ice! And it’s all meaningless to an audience that hasn't yet watched the film. No one could be blamed for wanting to give up before they began.
Henry Rollins's Character Is The Clark Kent Of Bad Guys
Henry Rollins has famously said something to the effect of if someone is going to pay him to do something he’ll do it, so bless him for taking on the roll of Spider, a jacked ex-corporate doctor. He basically only exists to provide exposition for Johnny and Karl Honig. And also run Honig over with a bus.
While Henry Rollins is not a dummy (he writes poetry for goodness sake), he will eternally look like a meathead. So how did the director of Johnny Mnemonic think he could make Rollins look like a doctor? Big ol’ glasses, of course. It’s not Rollins’s best look.
Johnny Mnemonic Is Three Stupid Movies For The Price Of One
Do you like Hackers, The Matrix, and Total Recall? Then you might, sort of, kind of, like Johnny Mnemonic. It has all of the computer lingo and bad graphics of Hackers, the Keanu Reeves being plugged into things of The Matrix, and the confusing plot line and confusing action of Total Recall. If that makes you think that Johnny Mnemonic is a wildly all over the place movie then you are right, and it’s amazing.
When the movie isn’t trying to be self-important and say something about corporations being evil and how technology is a drug, it’s actually pretty fun, albeit rather dumb. To be fair, anyone who watches Johnny Mnemonic and expects a trenchant critique on technology is probably wearing a dunce cap.
The biggest drag of the movie is that William Gibson, a genuinely great writer who created the cyberpunk genre, and who has anticipated many of our technological breakthroughs, wrote it. Lets give Gibson the benefit of the doubt and blame everything on the film’s director, Robert Longo, who gave us such screen gems as Megadeth’s video for “Peace Sells.”
Keanu Reeves’s Tour-De-Force Performance
Keanu Reeves was on an overacting roll throughout the '90s. He whisper-screamed through Point Break, Speed, The Devil’s Advocate, and The Matrix, but in no film was he tasked with freaking out on top of a pile of trash while a sad-eyed model watches.
Reeves brings his special brand of theatrical skill to such lines as “We have ice,” (said when he’s telling a woman that he has ice) and “It’s a fish,” (when he’s looking at what he presumes to be a fish). His performance reaches a fever pitch after Johnny Mnemonic is almost killed by members of the Yakuza - who have been spending the majority of the film trying to cut off his head - and by a techno-priest played by Dolph Lungdren.
Johnny loses it and starts flailing around on top of a pile of trash screaming about how he wants room service, a cold beer, to have his shirts pressed, and a $10,000 a night hooker. It’s a classic Campbellian moment where the hero denies the call to adventure ¾ of the way through the film. No matter how hard he acts, Reeves never sounds like anything other than Keanu Reeves. Simultaneously charismatic and uniform.