Our review of Johnny Mnemonic, published December 10th, 1999, is also available.
What's in Johnny's head can either cure the world…or kill him.
In the middle 1990s there was a boom in cyber/internet movies. With cyberspace becoming a staple in people's everyday lives, Hollywood caught on to the trend with movies like The Net, Lawnmower Man and the Keanu Reeves action sci-fi thriller Johnny Mnemonic. One of the first five titles in Columbia's new "Superbit" DVD line, Johnny Mnemonic also stars Dolph Lundgren (one of those Rocky sequels), Ice-T (Surviving The Game), Dina Meyer (Starship Troopers), and oddball rock star/poet/spoken word guru Henry Rollins. Adapted from a William Gibson short story, Johnny Mnemonic makes its second debut on DVD care of Columbia TriStar Home Entertainment.
Facts of the Case
Johnny Mnemonic is one of those rare movies that looks a lot more complicated than it really is. Strip away all the futuristic hooey and pull up the cyber curtains and what you've got is a story about a guy who's got a lot of information in his head that's gonna kill him unless he gets out, pronto!
Johnny (Reeves, Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure, Speed) is working as a courier of information for a large Japanese business. In the year 2021 corporations seem to run things, and the best way to get information from here to there is inside people's heads. Upgraded with some kind of mega storage capacity for data, Johnny is on the run from a lot of bad guys who want the information that's inside his head…however, he's uploaded TOO MUCH information, and if it ain't out soon it's going to kill poor old Johnny. You see, the new "information age" (i.e., technology) has spawned a deadly disease known as NAS (Nerve Attenuation Syndrome). This causes people to shake violently and generally look like their body is having a very unpleasant time. Johnny's beautiful bodyguard (Meyer) has this problem, as do millions of other citizens around the globe. The cure for this disease is what Johnny is carrying in his head. If this weren't bad enough, Johnny has some Japanese crime lords on his tail, as well as a deranged preacher (Lundgren) who kills in the name of Jesus Christ.
Can Johnny get his noggin' clear in time to save his life? And if so, will there ever be a time when Reeves doesn't act like a member of "Wyld Stallyons?"
Johnny Mnemonic is easily one of the most mundane action movies I've seen in a long, long time. With a relatively paper thin story and some very un-flashy action set pieces, Johnny Mnemonic just doesn't cut it as action, sci-fi, or thriller.
Johnny Mnemonic's main problem is that it has nothing new or original to offer moviegoers. While not a really bad movie, Johnny Mnemonic is not a very good one either. The future for Johnny Mnemonic looks a lot like Blade Runner, only much more toned down. Just like most films set in the future, Johnny Mnemonic has all the elements in place—homeless people who are smarter than they seem, businesses that are evil and corrupt, and a never ending night that lasts the entire length of the film. I'm not too sure what the budget was for Johnny Mnemonic, but they apparently spent most of it on catering, as none of the action sequences come off as giddy or entertaining. Sure, there are a few instances where some rockets are shot off, some gunfire is exchanged, and a somewhat cool looking laser whip is used to slice and dice people's heads or torsos off. However, all in all it's pretty tame and comes off as very flat special effects. In fact, there wasn't even an extra-terrestrial for us to gawk at. The closest we get to a cool looking alien or monster is Ice-T in his fanatical dreadlocks and burlap like clothing. Reeves runs around the film in a nice suit and tie looking as if he's trying to find a Holiday Inn so he can change into some new duds. Dina Meyers shows that she can act, but her Felicity-like hair sometimes comes close to outperforming her. As for the rest of the cast, they're bland and boring, save for Dolph Lundgren as a street preacher who is really a psychopathic killer. [Editor's Note: or is that psychopathetic?] Who knew that the same guy who portrayed He-Man in Masters Of The Universe had it in him? While not impressive, it did break up the monotony of the film the few times his character showed up.
There's not a whole lot else to say about Johnny Mnemonic. It's mindless entertainment with a really boring plotline. The only time I got halfway excited about watching this movie was when I realized that in one scene there was a cyborg dolphin floating in a glowing green tank. Now that's something you don't see everyday. Unfortunately, the rest of Johnny Mnemonic is.
Johnny Mnemonic: Superbit Edition is featured in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. The video presentation on this Superbit title is good, though not as good as The Fifth Element Superbit disc. While there are a few shortcomings in the picture, overall I found Johnny Mnemonic to sport a very nice looking transfer. All colors looked very vibrant and natural with the flesh tones being dead on and perfect. Black levels in all the scenes were also great with only the slightest amount of gray showing up. While this is not a perfect image, it's still a great looking transfer of Johnny Mnemonic by Columbia.
Audio is presented in both DTS and Dolby Digital 5.1 (both in English). Once again I didn't find this disc to be up to the standards of The Fifth Element Superbit edition. While watching Johnny Mnemonic I was surprised at how unimpressive this soundtrack was. Don't get me wrong—there were a good number of nice directional effects and the bulk of dialogue, effects, and music were all clean and clear of distortion. However, the spaciousness of the effects and surround sounds just didn't jump out at me as some other discs did. After listening to both the Dolby Digital 5.1 track and the DTS track, I found that I honestly couldn't really tell the difference between the two. Both tracks are good, though don't come close to reference quality. Also included on this disc are subtitles in Spanish, English, Chinese, Korean, and Thai.
You want the best audio and video stuff you can get? Then you ain't gettin' no stinkin' extra features!
Video and audio-philes will do well to get this Superbit title if they are fans of the movie. Personally, I wasn't quite as impressed with the quality of this second Superbit title I've reviewed, and I guess it didn't help that I thought the movie was very lackluster. For the price I can't really recommend this is a purchase unless you love the film, though it may be worth a rental on a lazy Friday night.
Johnny Mnemonic is slapped with a find for being shoddy entertainment. Columbia is free to go for above average work on this Superbit title.
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