Johnny Mnemonic

There's that cyber slam again.
"A pulse-pouding cyber-slam."

Now be honest, that kind of sounds like some sort of robot sex act doesn't it? Yeah I thought your silent agreement would be forthcoming, but that's beside the point! The point is that today I continue my aimless trek through the empty expanses of cyberfilms of the 90s. Today I go out of the hacker films all the way into full blast cyberpunk, with Johnny Mnemonic, a movie based on a William Gibson short story of the same name. If you don't know, William Gibson was one of the major voices of the cyberpunk sub-genre and also later of what would be known as post-cyberpunk (some of my all time favorite novels were among his later works) Johnny Mnemonic is relatively common of the genre however, and features a data courier who uses his own head for storage. Now me personally, I feel like if I were going to be a courier of stolen data who might be pursued by criminals, I wouldn't want brain to be the receptacle. I guess it guarantees that for a while my head is safe from bullets, but I feel like it sort of increases the chance of the rest of me getting torn up. At any rate, Johnny (played by the ever expressive Keanu Reeves who is 50 today, happy birthday Neo) seems less concerned with this, and more worried about getting enough money to have his implant removed. See while trafficking some guy's data is maybe lucrative, it comes at a serious cost. In this particular case, Johnny has lost all his memories of his childhood, and so is saving up to have that damage reversed, which I don't know how it's possible but apparently it is. So there's Johnny-boy's motivation, but what about the job? Well he's supposed to pick up some obviously hot merchandise from some nerds, and then carry it for them to their potential buyer. The problem is that it's way too much data, substantially more than johnny can carry safely in his noodle (I guess that isn't so surprising given the person we're talking about). Repeated warnings don't stop him from doing it anyway though, and moments later ole' Johnny is running for his life after his employers are shot to pieces and diced up by the Yakuza.

Man rough period before Law & Order SVU huh?
The data is, we can safely assume, really important, because everyone is killing each other to try and get their hands on it. We find out eventually that the data package includes the corporation Pharmakom's unreleased cure for Nerve Attenuation Syndrome, an epidemic disease caused by too many cell phones or something, some cyberpunk shit does it really matter? That was rhetorical, it does not matter. What does matter is that Johnny is led to the Lo-Teks, an anti-establishment group that wants to disseminate the information to the whole world, because fuck the man. Johnny is also helped out by a old-fashioned street samurai, which is to say a tweaked out robo-hooker serial killer, which is apparently the most common kind of bodyguard in 2021. So with the help of this spaz-killer  and the Lo-Tek leader, J-Bone, (who I shit you not is played by Ice-T) Johnny tries to decrypt the data in his own head, but in a way that won't result in him being dead. With the help of a major league playa like Ice-T how could he possibly fail right?

Bodyguards they say. Sure, whatever man.
This film is 100% cyberpunk, and despite the fact that it was made in 1995 it would have been very much at home some time more like 1988. It features improbable getups and robotically enhanced street criminals, along with a world heavily influenced by mostly Japanese pop culture. I've been to Newark, and while I agree that it is a devastated war zone, I don't recall as many guys with make shift armor and futuristic guns. There were virtually no laser whips that I can think of. People have names like Spider and oh yeah did I mention that there is a cryptographer dolphin. No seriously, this dolphin tries to help decrypt the data, and while they cut it out of the film, in the original version the dolphin needed heroin to do his work, so that is probably one of the stranger things you could witness in a movie.

Lookin pretty vacant there Keanu.
Bad luck for the dolphin I guess, and that luck was shared by the movie in the box office. Evidently the moviegoers of 1995 weren't ready for the edgy cyberpunk future of the 1980s and so the movie tanked in the US. In Japan however it did a bit better, and so it didn't end up being a total disaster. I'm sure in part its foreign success had to do with the extended appearance of Takeshi Kitano, who if you don't know is a pretty big deal in Japan, and among other cool guys he was the crazy teacher in Battle Royale. He is not less crazy in this movie. Other shout outs go to Dina Meyer, who plays the street sammy Jane (and was also just AWFUL in Starship Troopers) and it would also be wrong not to mention Dolph Lundgren as Street Preacher a hired killer (everyone in this movie is a hired killer).

Do I sometimes refer to this movie as Johnny Moronic? Absolutely I mean really how could I. Still it's entertaining, and you should give it a watch, if it sounds interesting, or if you'd like to see guys talking to a dolphin, and the dolphin responding via computer. It's on Netflix, so why not give it a go? That's it for today though gang! Join me again on Thursday, who knows where I'll take things next?

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