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Keanu Reeves is a space-age courier who's plugged in, turned on and buffed up to deliver the most important data of the 21st century, wet-wired directly into his brain! A rapid-fire roller coaster ofaction and high-impact imagery! Also starring Dolph Lundgren, Takeshi, Ice-T, Dina Meyer and Henry Rollins.
You might be tempted to call it "Johnny Moronic" after you've seen this illogical and derivative adaptation of William Gibson's cyberpunk short story (available in his book Burning Chrome), which is all the more depressing since Gibson himself wrote the screenplay. First you have to ask yourself why valuable top-secret electronic data would be stored in the "wet-wired" brain of a human courier (played by Keanu Reeves), who then transports the data from China to New Jersey as part of his last, most dangerous assignment. Surely there are better ways to transmit sensitive information, but since this is really just a conventional thriller with near-future design and spiffy special effects, Gibson and New York artist Robert Longo (making his directorial debut) are more interested in surface gloss and cyberpunk atmosphere. On that level the movie's fairly engaging, and Japanese film star Takeshi Kitano makes a pretty good villain, tracking Reeves down for the information in his data-packed brain. The movie also boasts an eclectic gallery of supporting players including rapper Ice-T, performance artist and rocker Henry Rollins, beefcake actor Dolph Lundgren, and transcontinental oddball Udo Kier. They can't stop this trip through virtual reality from being botched up, but sci-fi fans will certainly enjoy the echo of Gibson's fiction that remains on the screen. --Jeff Shannon
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I particularly enjoy the fact that "Johnny" isn't a hero in any way; his personal arc is to go from jaded (being very close to, but not as nihilistic as Reeves later role, Constantine) self-interested courier to something resembling a more social human being. He doesn't make this leap, it's made for him, thrust upon him by the situation he put himself into and the events of the film.
The performances in the film are pretty good, with Henry Rollins is ernest and no nonscens as the doctor, Spider. Dolph Lundrend is at his psychotic best as the mecenary, Street Preacher, and Ice-T is righteous and driven as the rebel leader, J-Bone.
One of the things I love most about his film is that the screenplay was written by the author of the original story, the immortal William Gibson, whose novel Neuromancer practically created the cyberpunk genre of science fiction.
Unfortunately, the film was marketed as a sci-fi action film, and it isn't. Yes, there is action and the cyberpunk elements are there in all their grimy glory, but it is a drama more than an action film, and most importantly a drama of the cyberpunk genre, which means that there are no "good guys" and "bad guys" there just is the antagonist and the hell he has to drag himself through. I think that this is why it didn't do so well in theaters, there is no black and white, only mixing, melding pool of grey.
Lastly, Keanu Reeves performance is spot on for this kind of film. Johnny is a self-obsessed, arrogant prick who has to learn to work with people and remember what it means to care about other people if he wants to survive the mess he is in. This is a major problem for him, because up to that point all he's ever needed to care about is himself, and that is the general mindset of the cyperpunk genre.
Overall, this is a very good film that I would recommend to anyone that likes science fiction or dark stories.
The pacing and constant parade of weird are what hold this film together.
It does have one or two small flaws, like all films. If it was a little bit longer a little more attention to one or two minor details could have been given, but the plot is fully and clearly laid out, there are a few twists, and a satisfying ending. In the end, the movie is about how degraded society can become without having concern for its inhabitants well-being. Its ending is a fresh beginning for the world, a second chance that we all seek, and our hero undergoes a spiritual transformation from a self-centered, money-grubbing courier to a decent human-being who realizes that there might be a way out for him and to save the technological world from collapse.