Even the techno-nerds will have a hard time finding qualities to admire in “Johnny Mnemonic,” a shabby throwaway about a human computer engaged in information thievery.
For not even Keanu Reeves, the perfectly capable Hollywood talent who starred in 1994’s freeway thriller “Speed,” does much to save this rough-edged Canadian production, which seems to have been developed as an international collaboration by people who didn’t bother learning one another’s languages before they started work.
William Gibson’s adaptation of his futuristic story is scarcely more than a scenario for some simplistic video game: The tale is one extended chase, and as often as not the viewer is “treated” to compugraphic footage that purports to show what is going on inside the micro-chipped brain of Johnny Mnemonic (Reeves). For those of you who don’t feel like opening up the dictionary, “mnemonic” has to do with one’s memory; the word is pronounced as though the “m” were not there - “nee-MON-ick.”
Seems Johnny, a bellicose little creep, has absorbed so much forbidden information that his head is about to explode. Japanese organized crime wants him, and so does a crooked preacher (Dolph Lundgren). The downloading is a big letdown, consisting of computer-generated squiggles that possess elaborate design values but absolutely no dramatic weight.
The director of record is Robert Longo, an avant-garde artist. The film scarcely seems to have been directed at all, except in the sense that its oppressive overall tone and lack of sympathetic characters seem deliberate.
MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: “Johnny Mnemonic” Location: East Sprague, North Division and Showboat cinemas. Credits: Directed by Robert Longo, starring Keanu Reeves and Dolph Lundgren Running time: 1:38 Rating: R