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.
Johnny Can Only Fit 160 GB In His Head
One of the central problems of the film is that Johnny can only fit 160 GB of data into his brain but he takes on a job that requires him to fit 320 GB. Holding too much data in his head could make him die, or something. No one ever actually dies from storing too much information, so the audience has to take the movie’s word for it.
Anyway, Johnny is holding the entire “Pharmkom mainframe” in his brain which, at 320 GB, is not a lot of stuff. Apparently no one thought that there would be hard drives bigger than 320 GB by 2021. Or that the word terabyte would be even cooler. Or that a small phone could, in theory, replace their idea of human brain capacity well before 2021.
Johnny spends most of the movie trying to get this information out of his brain. He’s having seizures! He’s seeing a tricycle! He’s not doing well! Multiple characters offer suggestions for how he could get the info out, but most involve some risk of his brain getting cooked – because it’s all experimental brain surgery. Johnny can’t handle even the minor possibility of something bad happening so he just spends most of the movie clutching his head and dreaming of that damn tricycle.
Johnny’s Wildly Unimaginative Internet-Hacking Outfit Makes Tron Look Way Ahead Of Its Time
The production design on this film varies wildly from “a bunch of stuff glued to some other stuff,” and “things that we spray painted silver.” Johnny's outfit for hacking into the net is a mishmash of both of those aesthetics. In the world of Johnny Mnemonic, to get into the net you have to wear Internet gloves and an internet visor that helps you jack in to the net and see all of the data you’re moving around.
You could say that it looks like it was made of discarded Nintendo parts, but that would be too kind. It actually looks like it was made out of stuff from the trash behind a Nintendo facility. When putting on the Internet outfit to make a long distance call to Bejing - which is something any modern person could do with a phone right now - the poor design of the outfit is most evident in all of its trashcan glory. The saddest thing about this costume is that someone built it and said “this is the best I can do.”
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.”
People have long looked to the movies to define what " the future" looks like. No era did this quite so, um, creatively as '90s sci-fi movies. Some films, like The Matrix, served as a philosophical metaphor about how the future was already happening, while other films, like 12 Monkeys, provided a grim look into what could be. Both are more logical and plausible than the incoherent plot, bad effects, and strange ability of Ice-T to project himself onto any television he chooses portrayed in Johnny Mnemonic.
If you’re a fan of science fiction writer William Gibson then you know that the Johnny Mnemonic movie is completely different than the short story it's based on. It has techno-priests, people with robot arms, and a dolphin that can control the Internet. Such a movie is best viewed in the company of friends, perhaps after a few drinks. Watching Keanu Reeves's Johnny Mnemonic portrayal is fascinating. Obviously he's aiming for something subversive with his performance, but the outcome is more like a piano with one key. Play it soft or play it loud, you still aren't going to hit a different note.
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