Sunday, October 14, 2012

Bill and Ted's Not-At-All-Excellent Cyber Adventure

Johnny Mnemonic (1995)

This was an incredibly dull movie. And a stoopid one, at that; Johnny Moronic some have called it.

Keanu Reeves plays our hero, data courier Johnny who smuggles information in his noggin in the world of 2021.  He dumped a chunk of memory (e.g. his childhood) to enable the illegal extra data storage capacity in his melon.  Reeves has to get the info downloaded before his head explodes or the audience loses its patience with the movie.

Reeves is in full Bill and Ted mode in this flick; his expressions have that blank deer-in-headlights feel.  All that was missing was Alex Winter as his traveling buddy and Reeve's trademark phrase, "Whoa!"

Reeves has to get the data from exotic Beijing (Panda Express looks more exotic than the film's production design of China) to Newark, New Jersey.  When did Newark become an important destination in cyberspace or real life for that matter?

This is a Bad Movie, through and through. The casting across the board was goofy: Ice T in a fright wig as a resistance fighter, weird Udo Kier as another weird Udo Kier character, Dolph Lundgren - seemingly on some bad mescaline - as a strung out street preacher/assassin?  To top it all, the actor playing the chief Yakuza assassin had eyebrows that were at least one inch thick!  It was so distracting, like watching an Asian Groucho Marx.

The resistance fighters, or Lo-Teks (get it, "low tech?") are HQ'd underneath an old bridge.  I didn't say below an old bridge, which would make sense if you want to keep out of sight of the cops and the corporations out to press delete on your ass.  No, this dumb movie puts the Lo-Tek's hideout UNDERNEATH a bridge: they networked together old containers and other scraps of metal and junk, and viola, it's the Hilton 2021.  Except you'd have to use cranes to get that shit up underneath the bridge and weld it all together.  How the hell did they hide all that from prying eyes?

Of course the Lo-Teks like to drop flaming cars (hey, "car bombs," everyone!) from the bridge onto trespassers below.  This once again raises the question of how you get old cars UNDERNEATH a bridge to be able to bomb unsuspecting snoops.  I imagine this image was the thing that led them to create the Lo-Tek's silly headquarters in the first place.

This movie looks and plays like an extremely cheap knockoff of the Max Headroom TV show, but instead of that show's inventiveness, creativity and smart satire, we got a B-movie plot, embarrassing cyber-tech double talk, cliched scifi punk fashions, a generic soundtrack, dull fight scenes, and a finale in one of Roger Ebert's trademarked "Steam and Flame Factory" settings.

And the scenes "in" cyberspace itself (one where Reeves is gloved up and helmeted to do, what, make a couple phone calls?) simply looked like someone's CGI effects reel after watching Tron.

Read an old issue of Omni magazine for a better, more exciting, and stimulating use of an hour and a half.

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