“Johnny Mnemonic” (movie)
review © 1995 by P. Douglas Reeder
In summary: fairly good cyberpunk action adventure.
Keanu Reeves (playing Johnny) does a fine job on a character without any great depth. Jane (sorry, I can’t remember the actress’s name) is fine as a romantic interest, which is how the character in the movie is written, but is not unduly plausible as a bodyguard. Ice-T, playing the head of the Lo-Teks (which aren’t that low of tech) is fine, mostly because he doesn’t have that many lines. He has the right visual appearance to carry the character.
Costuming and sets are well done, convincing, and (where appropriate) tasteful. The sets look properly futuristic, though we all know that the future is going to look a lot like the present, only with better computer graphics. The cyberspace sequences are aesthetically pleasing and not overdone, i.e. don’t take up an excessive amount of screen time. Perhaps the most convincing scene is Johnny wearing data gloves and a VR headset, making motions that seem very plausible to manipulate things in cyberspace.
The screenplay is a good adaptation of the short story, and uses all the short story elements well, adding some elements that fit well, such as a degenerative nerve disease. There is some gore, but not overly much, especially for a current action-adventure movie. No sex, and not more than a flash of nudity, and only one kiss, not too steamy. This is good, because it wouldn’t work, not without radically changing the characters. As it is, Jane is too sentimental to be convincing as a bodyguard.
The movie doesn’t get any deeper than the action-adventure level, though I can’t think of any particularly obvious way it could. I suppose the main characters could have been a bit deeper. The supporting characters are well done, having personality. Johnny’s most revealing scene is where he says he wants his shirts pressed like they are at the Imperial Hotel in Tokyo. How deep! Jane, we have no idea why she is what she is now or how she got there. Okay, that’s definitely a missed opportunity.