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THE F*CKING BLACK SHEEP: Johnny Mnemonic (1995)

Mar. 1, 2012by: Ryan Doom
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THE BLACK SHEEP is an ongoing column featuring different takes on films that either the writer HATED, but that the majority of film fans LOVED, or that the writer LOVED, but that most others LOATH. We're hoping this column will promote constructive and geek fueled discussion. Dig in!

Johnny Mnemonic (1995)
Directed by Robert Longo

“Sometimes even a shit sandwich has appeal. It just takes a few bites to figure that out.”

Six years before The Matrix, Keanu Reeves made Speed, and then the dude became a bon-a-fide star. Sure, he was known for Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure and surprisingly he was cast in Dracula and Point Break (he played a cop, but a surfing cop), but it wasn’t until Speed that folks saw him differently. Sure, he couldn’t shake that goofy, expressionless stare, but now he could carry a big-time picture. Suddenly, the public bought him as an action star. And that’s not an easy task.

With all that success, however, reason would dictate that he’d follow it up with a guaranteed smash. Instead, he gave the world the gift of Johnny Mnemonic. Yes, the cyber-punk film that features everyone from Henry Rollins to Ice-T to Dolph Lundgren to Takeshi Kitano to Jones dolphin. In a way, it’s a good thing he went for such an odd choice, because it let the world know where his career was headed. For every box office hit, he’d make five shit sandwiches that people discarded as soon as they got a taste. However, sometimes even a shit sandwich has appeal. It just takes a few bites to figure that out. If you’ve only sat through Johnny Mnemonic once, give it another shot knowing what’s in store. It’ll leave a better taste.

Johnny Mnemonic is both awesome and horrendous. On the awesome side, it’s got Keanu playing Keanu at his most Keanu-ish as he stars as a high-tech futuristic delivery boy in a world (2021, that’s in nine years!) that has bypassed flash disks and routed the information directly into our brain. Problem is, the info Keanu has stored in his melon is too much, and either he delivers it or dies trying. That’s a damn cool premise. Plus, he has to battle the evil Yazuka, lead by the badass Kitano who wants what’s in his head. That’s great all alone.

Then there’s the technology. A good cyber-punk movie is obsessed with anything and everything tech, and this being a dystopian film adds that layer of grit that makes the computers and hardware seem so much more punk. In 1995, the Internet was still a newborn in the minds of the masses, and this film actually predicted a lot of shit somewhat right. Regardless, any movie that strives to be so high tech effectively usually sucks within the next decade, but most of this gear here doesn’t seem flat out stupid. Actually, I remember seeing Mnemonic as a kid and was blown away by what the future could bring. No, I still can’t plug my iPhone into my skull (yet), but honestly does that seem far-fetched anymore? Ok, so…virtual reality never quite took off, but the movie was close in showing us what the Internet would become. Actually, now that I think about it I’m a little pissed we don’t have those fancy gloves and the giant silver super goggles for Google searches.

While it’s easy to goof on the cast, everyone here is game, notably Mr. T (is that what you’d call Ice in a formal situation?) as the leader of the rebels. I always thought Henry Rollins was an underrated actor (dude has energy), and Dolph Lundgren has a ball a street preacher assassin. Keanu doesn’t exactly take his role too seriously, but how could he with lines like, “You got parents and stuff? Or “I want to get online. I need a computer!” Or even better, the infamous room service line, where as the weight of the world rests on his giant shoulder pads, he breaks down and wants to be pampered at a Best Western (or whatever hotel he says). Johnny Mnemonic never takes itself too seriously, which is probably why many folks don’t dig it. But that’s fine. Few movies can balance drama and super cheese with sci-fi and super smart dolphins who can decode anything. Yeah. That’s not easy to do.

So what’s the horrendous? It’s a matter of perspective. If you hate this movie, then all above is horrendous. However, if you pull that wedgie out of your ass, an imperfect movie awaits. Johnny Mnemonic isn’t top-level sci-fi great, but it’s damn entertaining if you like Dolph and dolphins in the same movie.

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2:28PM on 03/01/2012
If you liked Dolph's character in Johnny Mnemonic you should see rent the Japanese Uncut version. Sony cut 90% of Dolph's character out of the movie cause they felt it was offensive to religion. In the Uncut film Dolph's street preacher character back story is revealed where he is preaching stark naked to churches full of women whoa re afflicted with the weird disease in the movie.
I pasted below more scenes which were removed and tweaked in the American version.
There are three extended
If you liked Dolph's character in Johnny Mnemonic you should see rent the Japanese Uncut version. Sony cut 90% of Dolph's character out of the movie cause they felt it was offensive to religion. In the Uncut film Dolph's street preacher character back story is revealed where he is preaching stark naked to churches full of women whoa re afflicted with the weird disease in the movie.
I pasted below more scenes which were removed and tweaked in the American version.
There are three extended scenes revolving around the character of Takahashi, as the actor portraying this character, Takeshi Kitano, is a popular [link] in Japan. These scenes include: Takahashi sitting in what appears to be his late daughter's room, watching a 3D hologram of his daughter playing; Takahashi watching a videotape of his daughter while self-medicating, and Takahashi killing two of Shinji's henchmen as punishment for bringing them under his command without permission.
A number of other differences exist in the Japanese version. There is no "laser" effect added to the opening text, which is plain, white and scrolling. The scene near the beginning with the protesters is longer, with extensive crane shots and the voice of a news anchor in the background. There is a scene added in the Beijing Hotel where Johnny obtains the "memory doubler" from a dealer who informs him that he was unable to get an upgrade as advanced as was originally agreed upon. In the scene in the mens restroom at the club where Ralphie (Udo Kier) yells at his bodyguard for hitting Johnny on the head, the bodyguard states that it had been a long time since she was in this room. In the book, the Dog Sisters (bodyguards) are muscle grafted creations, and are lovers, one of whom was originally a man. Jane refers to her grenade as a "bottle opener" on two different occasions instead of the US dialogue that refers to it simply as a grenade. The Street Preacher (also known as Karl Honig and played by Dolph Lundgren) character has an added scene where he is addressing his followers where he claims to have been "stricken by the sickness that devours the silver pathways of the soul," and has been healed by the Lord making him "post-human." He then notices Takahashi's henchmen arriving with a cryogenic container (for Johnny's head) and tells his followers that he must now leave to meditate. Throughout the movie, his character has a few extra lines that are shouted out during action scenes.
There are minor additions (usually less than a second or two in length) throughout the film. The scenes where the troops storm the bridge near have been edited resulting in a slightly different order of events. The final "hack your own brain" sequence has also been similarly edited with the inclusion of altered dialogue.
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5:33PM on 03/01/2012
Guilty pleasure for me. Another 90's sci-fi film that had potential but just misses the mark.
Guilty pleasure for me. Another 90's sci-fi film that had potential but just misses the mark.
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10:29AM on 03/01/2012
I tried to dig this flick. The set up is tight, but the middle section and the end sucked IMO. At least Dolph was a blast to watch! He stole the show!
I tried to dig this flick. The set up is tight, but the middle section and the end sucked IMO. At least Dolph was a blast to watch! He stole the show!
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1:37AM on 03/02/2012
It was one of those fun cheesefests that had Reeves going nuts, Dolph being awesome and some pretty sweet action bits. It wasn't perfect by any stretch, but it wasn't a bad way to spend an evening getting loaded.
It was one of those fun cheesefests that had Reeves going nuts, Dolph being awesome and some pretty sweet action bits. It wasn't perfect by any stretch, but it wasn't a bad way to spend an evening getting loaded.
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8:00PM on 03/01/2012
It took me a big while to find the Superbit DVD of this movie and it's really worth it. It's not an excellent movie, by any chance, but it has good story and theme. And before the age of external hard drive, I really thought the idea of putting a hard drive into human brain was realistic.
It took me a big while to find the Superbit DVD of this movie and it's really worth it. It's not an excellent movie, by any chance, but it has good story and theme. And before the age of external hard drive, I really thought the idea of putting a hard drive into human brain was realistic.
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3:45PM on 05/26/2012
"Six years before The Matrix, Keanu Reeves made Speed"

I think you got your maths mixed up because Speed came out in '94 and The Matrix '99.
"Six years before The Matrix, Keanu Reeves made Speed"

I think you got your maths mixed up because Speed came out in '94 and The Matrix '99.
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