Johnny Mnemonic (1995), or Cyberpunk Rules, Dude!

22 01 2009
Uh, like, Ive got a gun, and, like, Ill totally shoot, man...

Uh, like, I've got a gun, and, like, I'll totally shoot, man...

Well, welcome to 90’s week, everyone! Every day this week I’ll be taking a look at movies from yesteryear. Back when Ike was president, Chubby Checker ruled the radio, and you could buy Coca-Cola in the green glass bottle for a thin flat dime. Wait, am I thinking of the right decade? Ah, fuck it. Anyway, our first film comes from the ancient year of 1995 C.E.. So far back, huh? This is more like an archaeological find than a movie rental, I know, but come back with me, won’t you?

Johnny Mnemonic (What a dumb word to spell. That ‘M’ on the front is worthless!) is a data trafficker in the year 2021. Apparently, in about 13 years, the earth is about to get way more fucked up and dystopian, because life sucks in the future. Everything is dark and industrial. About half of the population of the earth is suffering from something called the Nerve Attenuation Syndrome, or “the black shakes” that is caused by an overexposure to electromagnetic radiation (?). And evil conglomerates, of course, rule the world. So, good times all around, and this is where Johnny comes in. In the future, info is the most valuable commodity, so he takes info secretly from one location to another. Well, the problem is that he carries the info in his brain with a mnemonic implant, and with the high amount of data he trafficks, he has lost some of his own memories. And he wants to buy them back. To do that, he’ll have to carry some pretty important info that is way too large for his implant to carry. On the way to drop off this info, a lot of people are after him and the implant in his head. Can he handle all the dystopian freaks that want him dead? Can he handle all the gigabytes of info in his head? What will happen to poor Johnny?!?!

The effects are decent for the time, I’ll give it that. I feel like it’s a dystopian future with all kinds of pixelated digital effects, and I think that is what they were going for.The director, Robert Longo, has worked in many other art forms, including lithograph, sculpture, and even music videos. This was his first feature. And his last. He performs admirably, but any good artist knows when to stay and when to chage mediums. The soundtrack is the most 90’s thing in existence (other than those flannel jackets and torn jeans you still keep in your attic. You know who you are…) You won’t find a more industrial-lite soundtrack around, a soundtrack which even features a song from Bono written during the “Achtung, Baby” sessions, their most 90’s album. Whoa! That’s a lot of 90’s!

Oh, and a funny thing. This is one of the few futuristic movies where we have actually surpassed the movie’s technological advances in real-life. Because in this movie, Johnny can only store 80 gigabytes of data in his implant! 160 if he uses a doubler, whatever that means. 160 Gigabytes! Most people could get a portable hard drive that could hold as much for about 80 bucks! And the massive info that is killing Johnny’s brain is only 320 GB. You can still find something to hold that easy! Good job, Johnny! You made all that fuss about your damn implant, and you could have gone to the Best Buy of the future and saved us all a little trouble.

This movie really encapsulates the 90’s alternative film scene for me. Everyone thinks they’re so damn cool in this movie. The movie is based fairly faithfully on William Gibson’s book of the same name, but you wouldn’t know that from their performance: you would think they were doing Shakespeare in the Park. They look like they’re creating some kind of masterpiece, when all they’re creating is an expensive flop. This movie tanked hard, and I’ll tell you, it wasn’t the cheezy special effects or the incessant bombast of 90’s hipper-than-thou techno-industrial, and it wasn’t even the marketing execs for a change. Mr. Reeves, would you kindly stand up? We need to talk.

Johnny Mnemonic is the least likable “hero” in history. He is a whiny half-wit with no redeeming factors. He throws tantrums (“I need room service!!!”), he constantly yells at people, and he is incompetent for all that. At least if he were the one thinking up all the schemes to get his own ass out of danger I would sympathize a little. But, no. Everyone in the future world is looking out for this guy. And, still, we are supposed to like the guy. Look, I know you lost your memories, Johnny, but that doesn’t excuse your asshole-ish qualities enough for me to even remotely like you. So sit back down. Here’s a few bucks to buy yourself a flash drive, baby, ’cause that’s all you’re worth.

In the end, I felt Johnny Mnemonic was way too smug for its own good. It wanted to be so 90’s hip, it forgot to be genuinely entertaining. Still, it does bring you back to a goofier time in movies where something like this could actually get a wide theatrical release, and that garnered a few chuckles from me. So, all in all, I give Johnny Nemonic 5 misplaced M’s out of 10.

See you tomorrow where we discuss our next 90’s film, Anthony Hopkins in Remains of The Day. Until then!!!