Johnny Mnemonic, starring Takeshi

This movie features one of my favorite line-readings ever, Ice-T saying “Oh, shit, the Yakuza.”


Let’s not forget, the Johnny Mnemonic screenplay was written by… William Gibson! Scary, I know!

But… I do sort of love the movie.


Every crappy movie contains the seeds of a great movie.

It is a lot easier to see what these seeds could blossom into if you are really, really stoned while watching.


Johnny Mnemonic: What the fuck is going on? WHAT THE FUCK IS GOING ON? You know, all my life, I’ve been careful to stay in my own corner. Looking out for Number One… no complications. Now, suddenly, I’m responsible for the entire fucking world, and everybody and his mother is trying to kill me, IF… IF… my head doesn’t blow up first.

Jane: Maybe it’s not just about you any more.

Johnny Mnemonic: Listen. You listen to me. You see that city over there? THAT’S where I’m supposed to be. Not down here with the dogs, and the garbage, and the fucking last month’s newspapers blowing back and forth. I’ve had it with them, I’ve had it with you, I’ve had it with ALL THIS - I want ROOM SERVICE! I want the club sandwich, I want the cold Mexican beer, I want a $10,000-a-night hooker! I want my shirts laundered… like they do… at the Imperial Hotel… in Tokyo.


The movie shares one quality with “Hobbit” and “Lord of the Rings:” glorious imagination and vision as written, disposable as a movie. For a real treat, read Gibson’s originals (and Tolkein’s!).

Gotta love those poor useless dipshits they roped into doing scripts and voiceovers for dubbed anime.

“…the building will come down like a ton of bricks!” That’s a great analogy given that you’re talking about a mile-plus-high skyscraper. Maybe next time go for “The nuclear bomb will go off like a firecracker.”

“Oh my God! He’s locking up to the thirty-jiggawatt satellite laser cannon!” Thanks for clearing that up, at first I thought you meant the thirty-one jiggawatt satellite laser cannon.

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I’m still happy about the “Welcome to the Free City of Newark” scene, especially as air travel has increasingly attempted to resemble that.


I can’t complain about Johnny Mnemonic. It was the 90’s, and I was 15, playing shadowrun in my friend’s basement some nights.

It was great by those (admittedly low) standards, and watchable now for the nostalgia.


No … please no. The disappointment for The Lawnmower Man is what prepared me for the possibility of the Johnny Mnemonic movie being terrible. But thanks for reminding me there was worse.

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I haven’t watched it in years but I found a lot to enjoy in this film, both good-because-it’s-bad but also genuinely good. There are some hints at what a great film it could have been, if about a million things hadn’t gone wrong, and though I do look forward to a Neuromancer film (which almost certainly will disappoint, but), there’s something special about a film like this being made in the early 90’s (would have been even better as an 80s film though).

Anyway I really wanted to comment mainly about Takeshi Kitano aka Beat Takeshi - he’s a fantastic actor and director, and pretty much everything he’s been involved with is worth seeking out. His early yakuza films are best known, of course, and with good reason. Hana-bi aka Fireworks is a great one to start with. His version of the blind samurai Zatoichi story is fantastic, perhaps the greatest samurai film of recent years. His truly best work though is probably the quieter stuff - Kikujiro is a great example, along with Sonatine (these are both actually yakuza films) - but seeing these in context with his other sometimes-ultra-violent stuff is part of what makes them great.

Also, he plays the teacher in the modern cult classic Battle Royale, which is undoubtedly what he’s best known for in the US.

Coming back on topic, I read that because of the disaster that was Johnny Mnemonic, Takeshi Kitano decided not to do any more Hollywood films and went back to working exclusively in Japan. We can probably be thankful for that, because I severely doubt Hollywood would have been able to utilize him to his potential (which comes out best when he has independent control). He did do a film set in LA (with an American co-star), but he wrote and directed and produced it himself. He was also in the British-Japanese co-production Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence way back in 1983, also starring David Bowie and definitely worth seeing.


Few things

  • Here in Japan the movie was just called JM because theres just no way to katakanaize “mnemonic”
  • The Japanese version had a different soundtrack done by Black Rain, AKA Death Comet Crew who also did some stuff with RAMM:ΣLL:ZΣΣ (see this HHFT comic)
  • Want to see a movie of a Gibson short story with a weird cast? Try New Rose Hotel instead.

As for Takeshi, the guy is a stone cold asshole IRL and on Japanese TV. He keeps making the same movie over and over again and deserves to be tossed into the Wood Chipper of Justice for his version of Zatoichi (looking at you @penguinchris) Takeshi will never be fit to carry Katsu Shintaro’s fundoshi.


When I first watched this movie, its first half, at least, seemed to have a certain dry sense of humor. But that shut down in the second half and then the story unspooled according to Hollywood formula. The article writer’s point about the film not commenting on anything resonated with my own thought when I first saw the film: that it had no subtext – there was no conceptual “glue” holding the story together. This may be another reason the film felt like it fizzled in the second half – because it had no overall answer to the “why” question and so in the end could only go through the motions of telling a story.

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you mean the fine people at the BBC.

It is a fictional movie in a supposed alternate reality; though, with a bit of After Effects work, it could be snuck into scenes of “Strange Days” which did the whole, “invasive technology is gonna screw you up” thing a whole lot better.

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As one review that I read at the time said, “The spectacle of Keanu Reeves running around for two hours shouting “Something is wrong with my brain!” does have a certain appeal.”


I had the reels out of order experience while watch “Blood Beach”; the love interest gets eaten and then is suddenly back alive again… still the film did feature one great line. A cop has been collecting fragments of evidence from the eponymous beach and holds up an evidence bag to the hero, asking, “What color were your girlfriend’s eyes?”

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Haha, yeah the dude is an asshole. I forgot what it’s called but there’s one he’s in (that he didn’t direct) where he’s like the worst angry, abusive dad ever, I couldn’t stand to watch more than a few minutes and turned it off. Somehow there’s actually a sequel to that one, I believe. The reason I found it so hard to watch (while there have been many great, compelling performances by people portraying evil, nasty people) is that you get the sense that he’s not really acting. Like that really could be him.

I generally don’t give a pass to assholes (and, well, I’m not necessarily giving him a pass) but there’s something about his being an asshole that makes his films as compelling as they are. I haven’t seen anything he’s done since Takeshis (which I saw at its Toronto International Film Festival premier, actually, as it was the only ticket I could get) and at that point yeah he’d gotten repetitive and odd, and I got the sense after that that he’ll need a period of retrospection and a “comeback” to be interesting again.

But part of the point of Takeshis was exploring the guy’s odd personality, which he clearly is self-aware of, including the asshole part. I get the sense that he genuinely struggles (there was at least one suicide attempt, which gave him his distinctive scar and eye-twitch) and few people have translated that to the screen as well as he has, though it’s always veiled in something else (usually yakuza characters). That’s how you get genuinely beautiful films like Kikujiro out of a guy that is a self-admitted asshole jerk.

There’s also just the fact that he does this stuff so differently from everyone else. Most yakuza films are boring and uninteresting, even the “great” ones that get compared to e.g. The Godfather. Seijun Suzuki and Takeshi Kitano did things differently and with a genuine sense of “autership” (sorry) - though those two are quite different from each other, of course - and so their films are interesting and compelling. Of course, this is from an outsider’s perspective.

You can also compare him to John Woo; they both searched for beauty and poetry (blah blah blah) in crime and violence, in different ways. But whereas John Woo films like Hard Boiled look for that through insane, incredibly designed shootouts set inside ridiculous and cliche storylines, Takeshi Kitano takes a more nuanced approach, basically examining the messed-up psychology of yakuza types. You get a sense of brotherhood and honor from John Woo; Takeshi Kitano yakuza films are superficially about brotherhood and honor but really are dismantling those ideas by showing their absurdity.

I guess what I’m saying is that this is a guy who you don’t have to like in order to get a lot out of his films. In fact, he’s very difficult to like, as you suggest, although if you only look at his films (which he’d probably prefer that you do) there is a complicated charisma and likability that he possesses or else you wouldn’t be able to watch his movies.

As an aside, if you have suggestions for modern samurai films that you think are better, I’m interested because like I said I haven’t really been into this stuff for years. I know that Zatoichi is polarizing and we don’t have to argue about that one :wink:

To get back on topic, let me just say that there was definite potential in Johnny Mnemonic along the lines of everything I’ve been discussing here. I suspect Takeshi Kitano must have seen that potential in the script which is why he agreed to do it.


To be honest there has not been hardly anything worth watching in that genre after the 70s. After the rain was OK and Samurai Fiction didnt suck, but neither of those captured any of the glory of the 60s & 70s movies of the genre. Besides those nothing comes to mind.

Samurai Fiction was OK, wasn’t really my cup of tea but enjoyable enough. Hadn’t heard of the other one so I might check that out (it being a Kurosawa screenplay is promising). There are a couple other newer ones I have seen that were interesting (which I can’t recall the names of) but they’re very much in the “deconstructing the myth” vein and not really what you think of when you think of samurai films. That’s partly why Zatoichi was pretty great, because Takeshi Kitano is all about deconstructing myths (while constructing others of his own) but he’s also homaging the original Zatoichi films which are very much part of the glory years.

Yeah, but Virtuosity was great.