review for Johnny Mnemonic on AllMovie

Johnny Mnemonic (1995)
by Brian J. Dillard review

Keanu Reeves' road to The Matrix was paved with several subpar techno-thrillers, none so dire as this disappointing collaboration between visual artist Robert Longo and cyberpunk auteur William Gibson. Given that Gibson's fiction basically transformed Blade Runner imagery into razor-sharp prose, it seems like the transformation would work in reverse. But Gibson and Longo get it all wrong, littering their film with clumsy exposition and stale action scenes that are miles away from the taut precision of the original short story. Molly, the knife-fingered enigma with the built-in sunglasses who made Johnny Mnemonic and the novel Neuromancer so cool and compelling, is replaced by Jane, an all-too-conventional girlfriend character with a thin veneer of tough-girl bravado. Newcomer Dina Meyer fails to invest the part with much wit or style, but she's no worse than Reeves, who proves incapable of enlivening the stale lost-childhood clichés with which Gibson saddles his character. In fact, the actor's most inspired line reading ("I want room service! I want a club sandwich! I want the cold Mexican beer! I want a 10,000-dollar-a-night hooker!") was reportedly an ad lib, which doesn't say much for the screenplay. Throw in Dolph Lungren and Henry Rollins in a pair of pseudo-intellectual, testosterone-soaked supporting roles and you've got an action film whose supposed smarts and heart make it far more excruciating than any straightforward genre exercise. Then there are the visual effects, which reduce Gibson's vision of Internet-based virtual reality to something that looks like an old MTV promo. Only the presence of ice-cold Beat Takeshi Kitano, the amusingly creepy Udo Kier, and the blustery Ice-T (playing virtually the identical character he essayed in Tank Girl the same year) provide any measure of incidental viewing pleasure. In all other respects, this one's a total dud.