Johnny Mnemonic is a bad movie. It cannot be saved by Ice-T or Henry Rollins or Beat Takashi, who are all bad-asses. It cannot be saved by Dolph Lundgren who plays a cyborg-priest-assassin. It cannot even be saved by the bionic dolphin that uses its high-frequency sonar to help Keanu Reeves hack into his brain so he can get the data the Pharmacon Corporation put in his brain and save the world.
I don't know what makes Johnny Mnemonic a bad movie. The screenplay was written by William Gibson (badass) who adapted it from a short story from his collection Burning Chrome (I can't remember the name of the story, but it is shorter with more action and there is some kind of duel on a net high above an underground society). I don't mind the costumes and the second rate set designs.
There are some good parts to this movie. There is a ninja with a thumb that turns into a laser-whip. He cuts Udo Kier into three pieces. He also chops off some heads. There is a part where Dolph Lundgren is sonared to death by a bionic dolphin. I don't think it is Keanu Reeves' fault that this movie sucks. I think Keanu Reeves is an interesting actor and people who think he is boring suck because he made a ton of rad movies and no one else can play the parts he plays. I feel like his part in Johnny Mnemonic is a part like this.
In his long essay about The Matrix, this is what Joshua Clover says about Keanu Reeves' acting in Johnny Mnemonic:
"Like Schwarzenegger's Terminator, Keanu Reeves was meant to realize himself as not-quite-human. But unlike the processed bodybuilder/future Governor, Keanu wasn't quite made to play a machine. With his unassignable looks (often attributed to his genetic heritage of Chinese, Caucasian, and Hawaiian) already seemingly digitally smoothed, and his immediate proffering of pure surface without depth, he's closer to the dream of a next generation - a post-modern poster boy. In both appearance and manner, his quality is that of the actor without qualities - the New Star, destined not to distract from the digital mise en scene but to integrate with it seamlessly."
This is a good thing to say about most of Keanu Reeves acting, maybe not his acting in classics such as Point Break, or Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure. He is more expressive in those movies. But I think it applies to most of his movies, especially The Matrix movies and A Scanner Darkly.
Sometimes I feel like Johnny Mnemonic. Like I have all this important information in my head I can't get to because an evil corporation doesn't want me to have it and all I need is a super-intelligent bionic dolphin and Ice-T and Henry Rollins and I can save the world. Do you ever feel that way?