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Johnny Mnemonic: (Pneumatic)

a movie review by Joe Parra

Rating: 2 out of 4

In the not-too-distant future, a rather lucrative method of employment is to be a special type of courier. No, this is not one of those pesky folks on bicycles confounding traffic. These individuals in the future have memory implants that work like computers - they can store incredible amounts of information, but they can handle just so many bytes. Johnny Mnemonic, the titular hero of the film, is one of these "information please" folks. He has been hired by a group of Japanese hackers for a very special purpose. In this future, a small group of individuals wield all the power via an incredible master computer. Naturally, these people are not nice. (In these tales, they never are.) Leading the resistance, via hackers, is a rag-tag bunch of techno-minded gunslingers. What the Japanese hackers hope to relay via Johnny is a secret recipe for the ultimate hack: to destroy (unplug?) Big Brother. Of course, the controlling personae have no intention of dropping the keyboards and surrendering; and so the merry chase is on, with Johnny and his resitance pals dodging bullets and logorhythms at every turn. Where to go???

With this type of movie, the big star is going to be special effects; and, in that regard, this film is no slouch. The computer-generated FX (well, of course the effects would be computer-generated in this film!) are absolutely marvelous, especially when we are allowed inside our hero's skull. The sets are incredibly grungy in this bleak, nightmarish world, and so work nicely. The weaponry is state-of-the-art; the computers up-to-date and beyond; in short, the flick is technically beautiful.

HOWEVER, technotronics alone do not a movie make. In this case, would that it were so! Keanu Reeves, Hollywood's answer to the cigar store Indian (emotion-wise), has at last found a role that he is perfect for. This is no joke or jibe, either! His monotone and great stone face are perfect for this Johnny Mnemonic character, because any movement like emotion or life would threaten his existence. Ice T shows us that rap - definitely not acting - is his forte, though he has one or two nice moments when showing Johnny the hackers' turf. Dolph Lundgren is so bad that he's good, as a crazed hitman with a Messiah complex. Robert Longo, the '80s multimedia sensation, directs with all the delicate skill of a cement mixer and the finesse of a pneumatic drill.

Infintely more interesting is the story of the bringing of William Gibson's story to the screen. Gibson was so impressed with Longo's topically interesting art that he decided this man was to bring his vision of the bleak future world to life on the celluloid map. At first, they tried to make Johnny Mnemonic as a mere $7 million black-and-white epic; however, the story was just too large in scope to be done relatively inexpensively. Carolco Pictures got wind of the boys' dilemma and decided to bail in with $25 million. Ah, but alas! Poor Carolco hit the skids and sold the project to independent producer Steffan Arrenbherg, who in turn got Tri-Star Pictures interested. Originally, Val Kilmer was slated to play Mnemonic. Imagine that - they almost had an actor with range from A to Z instead of A to B. Mnamazing, mnism't it?

Enjoy (the effects, anyway).

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