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 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’s handler in Newark is a smarmy guy named Ralphie played with scene chewing glee by Udo Kier, whom you may remember from Dancer in the Dark or Ace Ventura: Pet Detective. It’s Ralphie’s job to get Johnny jobs where he couriers information, but he also own a club that is absolutely crazy. It’s like an opera-techno-Victorian-era-robot club.
All of the women are dressed like pirates made by Patrick Nagel and it’s lit with nothing but turquoise and purple lights. The music at Ralphie’s club sounds like three different CDs playing at the same time. And there are robot bartenders. The Yelp reviews for this place must be terrible.
There’s something strange about Dolph Lungdren’s presence in Johnny Mnemonic. It’s not that he looks like the Beast from the Linda Hamilton TV show Beauty and The Beast, and it’s not that he imbues all of his lines - which are Biblical misquotes - with an orgasmic pleasure, it’s that his appearance in the film feels like an afterthought. It's as though the filmmakers, once finished making the film, realized they were ten minutes short.
The movie is Keanu Reeves running from Laser Whip who has been hired by Corporate Bad Guy. But then there’s this short subplot about a priest named Karl who is mostly made of robot parts and is also a killer for hire.
As confusing as this character is, he is absolutely wonderful. Lungdren’s performance makes you wish that he had been the main bad guy instead of Laser Whip. At one point he freezes a guy’s robo-hand and smashes it, which makes zero sense but it’s wonderful. He gets shot, stabbed, and hit by a bus but none of that kills him. What does it take to kill a man who has become technology? A dolphin and a microwave.
In his final showdown with Keanu Reeves and friends, Starship Troopers’ Dina Meyer and Jones the Dolphin maneuver a satellite to shoot microwave energy at Lungdren until it cooks his body while Keanu Reeves watches from behind a net (duh). Is it too late to Kickstart a Karl Honig spin-off movie?