Film / Johnny Mnemonic

http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/HelloUltimateHardDrive_3589.jpg
Hello, Ultimate Hard Drive.

"I can carry nearly eighty gigs of data in my head."

Johnny Mnemonic is a 1995 cyberpunk film, loosely based on the short story of the same name by William Gibson, in which Keanu Reeves plays the title character, a man with a cybernetic implant in his brain designed to store and transport digital data.

Johnny (Reeves) is a "mnemonic courier" (data trafficker) who has an implant that allows him to securely store data too sensitive for regular computer networks. His brain can carry nearly 80 gigabytes worth of digital data, or 160 gigabytes if he uses a "doubler". Johnny uses this implant to deliver such data between contracting parties. On one delivery run, he accepts a package that not only exceeds the implant's storage capacity (and will kill him if the data isn't removed in 24 hours), but also proves to contain information far more important and valuable than he had ever imagined. Johnny must deliver the data before it kills him, but the company sends assassins out after him to protect said data.

The film is also notable for the presence of Takeshi Kitano, making a very rare appearance in an American-made movie, and whose role in the Japanese version of the film was slightly expanded.

Also adapted for a little-known Full Motion Video game for Windows 3 with different actors, as well as a pinball adaptation that is much better received than the movie itself.


What causes NAS? THIS causes it:

  • Aborted Arc: The opening scene establishes that Johnny is going on One Last Job in order to make enough money to afford a surgical procedure to remove his implant and restore his childhood memories. This surgery is so important to Johnny early on in the movie that he's willing to exceed his implant's storage capacity space just to earn the money he needs. However, this is all completely irrelevant by the end of the film, where Johnny's character arc quickly resolves itself through entirely different and unestablished means involving the completion of the three-image download code, which makes no logical sense and raises numerous unanswerable questions.
  • Adaptation Expansion: The film expands on the 22-page short story and even borrows from Gibson's other stories set in The Sprawl.
  • Adaptational Wimp:
    • Ralfi's two bodyguards are mooks who get beat up on, while in the original short story, they're called the Magnetic Dog Sisters and are very dangerous.
    • Jane's role in the movie is of much less significance that that of the short story's original lead female character, Molly Millions. Where Molly Millions played a very active role in protecting Johnny in the original text, Jane's cybernetic enhancements are treated as an Informed Attribute, and she does little of consequence beyond coming to Johnny's rescue at Ralfi's nightclub. Even after Jane is hired as a bodyguard for Johnny, it's Johnny who winds up doing more to protect her, such as when Johnny pushes her out of the way of a falling car and Johnny tackling the Street Preacher while attempting to crucify her.
  • Air-Vent Passageway: Jane uses one after Ralfi and his bodyguards carry an unconscious Johnny to a back room at a nightclub. The vent is so wide and spacious that Jane only needs to crouch down to fit through and can still walk on two feet when moving through it.
  • Always Night: The only time daylight is ever seen is in the brief glimpses of flashbacks to Johnny's childhood.
  • Aluminum Christmas Trees: An early model of head-mounted display built by Jaron Lanier in the early 1990s was actually called an "Eyephone". Johnny also refers to the Thomson brand—Thomson being the real-life company that actually acquired all patents from Lanier's company, including the Eyephone.
  • Art Imitates Art: Johnny's wild movements and flailing arms during his over-the-top character monologue echoes the various charcoal sketches of sharply dressed men in motion, made and popularized by the movie's director, Robert Longo, in the 1980's.
  • Artificial Limbs: The bartender at Ralfi's club, Hooky, has an electronic arm.
  • Artistic License – Economics: The evil Mega Corp intends to suppress the cure for a deadly disease which half the world's population suffers from, their logic being that "treating the disease would be more profitable than curing it." However, their treatment medicines are said to cost $2,000 per clinical unit, which would be far more than most people in the world suffering from the disease could likely ever hope to afford, especially over any lengthy, continual basis. This business strategy would likely see diminishing returns over time, as increasing numbers of people living on low and middle-class incomes struggle to pay the company's exorbitantly high prices and more sick people die off amidst the global pandemic (be it with or without the available treatments; notably, Takahashi's young daughter still succumbed to NAS, despite having had the best possible access to the treatments, given her father's ranking status in PharmaKom). In this circumstance, one could expect that their working cure would ultimately yield a greater profit because it could be cheaper (especially if consumers only need to pay for a one-time dose or prescription), would have a greater public demand (especially if such a desired product is depicted in the movie as something people would go as far as to start riots over), and would help their global consumer base stay healthy and thrive and build a more prosperous, sustainable global economy in the long term.
  • As You Know: One of Johnny's clients in Beijing explicitly warns Johnny of the dangers a courier exceeding one's storage capacity, even though Johnny should already know of the limitations and dangers of his own implant, so that the audience can pick up on this important exposition.
  • Awesome, yet Impractical: A portion of Johnny's brain was removed or otherwise toyed with to make room for the implant that left Johnny without his childhood memories and, possibly, with stunted emotions and personality. But while, essentially, having lost part of his humanity seems pretty trivial (especially compared to the significantly greater risks that would present themselves had this been a Real Life procedure), even Johnny is so unhappy with this tradeoff that he explicitly makes it clear to his work contact (Ralfi) that he wants to have the implant removed for these reasons. More importantly, uploading anything onto the implant puts such a torturous strain on Johnny that he has to wear a mouth guard, presumably to avoid him biting off his own tongue. Finally, the implant lacks a safeguard to prevent the user from exceeding storage capacity, which is implied to be lethal. One can only wonder what circumstances led to Johnny consenting to such a procedure.
  • Berserk Button: Don't call Jones a fish or he'll fry you with his microwave dish.
  • Bilingual Dialogue: A conversation between Takahashi and Shinji early in the film begins with them both speaking Japanese, switches to this trope, and ends with them both speaking English.
  • Bloody Handprint: Specific to the Japanese cut, before Jane and Jones work together to eliminate the Street Preacher, Jane holds a bloody palm up against the glass of Jones's tank and leaves a bloody streak on it while asking Jones for help.
  • Bodyguard Babes:
    • Jane, hired bodyguard for Johnny.
    • Ralfi has two babes for protection, as well. One of them is transgender. In the short story, they're called the Magnetic Dog Sisters, and Johnny can't remember which one used to be male.
    • The female martial artist in the Beijing Hotel room, who isn't enough to deter Shinji and his Mooks.
  • Bodyguard Crush: Sure enough, Jane gets all up on Johnny.
  • Bond One-Liner: After Johnny, hiding behind a bathroom door, gets the jump on one Yakuza thug, he quips, "Next time knock, Baldy!"
  • Bond Villain Stupidity:
    • After Johnny regains consciousness from a Tap on the Head and finds himself strapped to a table in the back of Ralfi's club, Shinji explains the orders he has been given to cut off Johnny's head and freeze it—orders he could have reasonably carried out at any time mere moments prior, while Johnny was still unconscious, instead of waiting for Johnny to wake up and explaining the situation he is in. Consequently, this gives Jane time to intervene before Shinji can carry out his orders.
    • Baldy spends significant time taunting J-Bone when he catches the LoTek leader at a disadvantage, giving Johnny time to sneak up on Baldy and attack him from behind.
  • Book Ends: The scenes at the end in the LoTeks' headquarters assembled from "old world junk" parallel and contrast the sleek, "new world" future look of the New Darwin Inn and Beijing Hotel at the film's beginning. Compare & Contrast the giant fishbowl in the hotel lobby and Jones's water tank; Johnny waking up with Jane in Heaven with Johnny waking up with his anonymous ladyfriend in the opening scene; Johnny's and the LoTek's VR rigs.
  • Bowdlerized: In the Japanese cut, Jane's references to her "grenade" are taken out and replaced with "bottle opener".
  • Brats with Slingshots: Found among the LoTek ranks during a Mexican Standoff with the Yakuza.
  • Car Fu:
    • The Lo Teks like to set Volkswagens on fire and drop them on attackers.
    • The Street Preacher is intentionally run over by Spider's van at one point, but he shrugs this off.
  • Cassette Futurism: Future fashions and aesthetics in the year 2021 are based on 1980s and early 1990s fashions (especially the bright colors and heavy makeup on characters in Ralfi's club). Fax machines (even VCRs) still play a very crucial role in transferring digital information, and the appearance of the future Internet is based on conceptual designs of cyberspace and virtual reality, as popularized by William Gibson's Neuromancer.
  • Catch Phrase: Johnny says, "Hit me", before uploading/downloading information to/from his implant.
  • Celebrity Paradox: A shot of the back of Henry Rollins's head reveals his Black Flag logo tattoo on the back of his neck.
  • Chickification: Happened to Molly/Jane in between the short story and the movie.
  • China Takes Over the World: The film's depiction of Beijing, while in a state of unrest, is shown to be a far more sleek, futuristic, and stable economic center than what we see of America (Newark), which is in large part depicted as a crumbling slum. Other details suggesting America's apparent status as a fallen superpower and Asia's dominant influence in the world include Spider's exposition that technology like Johnny's "upscale" neural implant is hard to come by in America and Johnny noting he got his in Singapore. (See Also: Fallen States of America, Japan Takes Over the World)
  • Church Militant: The Street Preacher.
  • Clean Cut: Performed by the molecuwire whip.
  • Code Emergency: Dr. Allcome.
  • Contrived Coincidence: J-Bone lending support to Johnny in his escape from Ralfi's nightclub after having already made clear to Johnny earlier that he "don't owe [him] shit," is given partial justification by Jane (whose own involvement with rescuing Johnny is also thanks to coincidental circumstances) explaining that she very conveniently just so happens to be "old friends" with the LoTeks that they bumped into and could request such a favor on the spot. However, there's nothing to explain how J-Bone and his underlings knew their numbers would be useful at Ralfi's nightclub when nobody ever told them ahead of time that the Yakuza would be up to no good over there, unless their presence here happens to be yet another extraordinary coincidence.
  • Cut Lex Luthor a Check: PharmaKom wants to suppress the cure for NAS because "treating the disease is more profitable than curing it"... but they went through the trouble of spending their profits on researching and developing a cure, anyway. If they did that, then they may as well should sell the cure and recover the expenses they had to pay to get it made in the first place, instead of hiding it from everybody (including themselves).
  • Cybernetics Eat Your Soul:
    • The brain implant Johnny received for his job as a courier required him to remove the memories of his childhood, which makes him less of a whole person.
    • An additional scene with the Street Preacher in the Japanese cut explains that the character's obsession with cybernetic upgrades is a consequence of having contracted the NAS disease. As the disease destroys his organic body, he gets artificial parts and upgrades to gradually replace it, which, in turn, makes him increasingly insane and delusional. In his own view, he sees himself as a "post-human" individual.
  • Cyberpunk: Adapted from the work of the innovator of cyberpunk, William Gibson.
  • Cyberpunk Is Techno: Featured in the film. The short story prominently features a fight set on an arena that produces techno beats based on the movements of the combatants.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Several of Johnny's lines are certainly written with this in mind:
    Jane: Man owes me fifty thou and he’s scamming my phone card!
    Johnny: It's still our first date.
    • Johnny's response to a roomful of men in a hotel room pointing guns at him is to hold his briefcase up on its side at shoulder level and ask the room, "Double cheese, anchovies?"
    • "What did they upload, Ralfi? The goddamned Library of Congress?"
    • "If I wanted the silicon dug out of my back brain, I would have gone to Mexico City!"
  • Death by Irony: Shinji was supposed to cut off Johnny's head, only for Johnny to cut off Shinji's head (and with his own signature weapon, too).
  • Designated Girl Fight: In the back of Ralfi's club, Jane gets carried away with exclusively wailing on one of Ralfi's Bodyguard Babes.
  • Deus ex Machina: During the climax, Johnny escapes death when the Virtual Ghost stored on PharmaKom's computer mainframe is somehow able to intervene by taking over the LoTeks' network to confront Takahashi, who she somehow knows precisely where he is in the base and that, at that very moment, he's pointing a gun at Johnny and has him cornered. What's more is this sudden appearance is necessitated to reveal a lot of exposition just to allow Takahashi a last-minute Heel–Face Turn. While we would have already known that Takahashi has a deceased daughter, it is only at this moment late in the film that we're suggested her death may have actually had something to do with NAS. This moment is unusual in that for all the times the AI has reached out to Takahashi already, it is only at this precise time at the story, right when Takahashi is threatening the hero's life, that the AI tells him what he needed to hear to change his opinions.
  • Divided States of America: Johnny flies from Beijing to "The Free City of Newark." (See Also: Fallen States of America)
  • Do Not Adjust Your Set: The LoTeks override television signals from around the world and send out their own transmissions.
  • Dueling Hackers: When Johnny is diving through the net looking for leads, a PharmaKom hacker is trying to trace him down and dumps a virus on him.
  • Dull Surprise: Johnny's childhood memories were removed from his brain to make room for his cybernetic implant, negatively affecting his emotions.
  • Dutch Angle: One such tilted camera shot that gets a lot of notice involves Johnny and Jane running through a cloud of smoke emanating from a sewer grate as they make their getaway from Ralfi's club, in which Johnny can be seen holding a gun he had just thrown away in the previous shot.
  • Everything Sensor: An X-ray scanner seemingly intended just to check for signs of contraband and illegal bio-mechanical upgrades and implants at a customs/border security station also does a thorough CAT-scan of a person's body and dispenses medical advice when it notices any health risks (such as "synaptic seepage" from a brain implant).
  • Expy:
    • Jane was created to replace the female lead from the original story, Molly Millions, because another film studio owned the rights to use that character in a movie.
    • The bartender at Ralfi's club, Hooky, is modeled after Ratz, a bartender in William Gibson's Neuromancer who also has an electronic arm.
  • Extreme Graphical Representation: The computer virus sent to "burn" the artificial intelligence out of the PharmaKom computer mainframe is conveyed with a fire effect superimposed over her face.
  • Fallen States of America: All signs in the future setting point to the United States being a crumbled, fallen superpower—most likely the aftermath of a vague, unspecified "war" alluded to by Jane—and Asian countries have emerged as the world's most dominant economic and technological powers. Of what we're explicitly shown in the movie, Newark, New Jersey is now considered a "Free City" where sovereign control is mostly in the hands of MegaCorps and organized crime, who keep getting into confrontations with growing uprisings amongst the people still living in total squalor among the junk and remains of the "old world". A functioning United States government is never mentioned or suggested to carry any influence.
  • Faux Action Girl:
    • Jane. While her counterpart Molly Millions in the original short story is a far more Bad Ass, cybernetically enhanced "razorgirl" who actively protects Johnny, Jane suffers from a neurodegenerative disease, and her cybernetic enhancements are of no consequence to anything she does, despite her own insistence that they make her a great, adept bodyguard and fighter. Johnny is also made tougher in the film than in the original story, requiring less protection from Jane.
    • The lone female in the group of PharmaKom defectors that gets the data to Johnny is the only one (apart from Johnny) to put up any kind of a fight when Shinji and his mooks arrive to gun them all down, but her actions have no bearing on the outcome of the scene and she is quickly killed.
  • Future Music: The nightclub features an opera singer singing over a techno/metal rhythm.
  • Gadget Watch: Johnny detonates a small bomb by pressing a button on his wristwatch.
  • A God Am I: The street preacher's goal is to become an essentially immortal cyborg with money attained from contract killings; he believes that once he finishes his latest job, retrieving Johnny's head for the yakuza, he could use the reward money to become a god. (See Also: Transhuman)
  • Goggles Do Nothing: J-Bone wears a pair of ski goggles covering his forehead at all times.
  • Heroic Dolphin: Jones is a dolphin with cybernetic implants who helps Johnny retrieve the data from his head.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Spider gives himself up to be crucified by the Street Preacher so that Johnny and Jane have an opportunity to escape with the NAS cure, likely to set an example for Johnny the Jerk Ass about what it means to be willing to sacrifice oneself for a greater good (it doesn't really help).
  • Hidden in Plain Sight: Johnny's (implicitly illegal) data-smuggling implant scans as a perfectly legal dyslexia-correction implant.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: Shinji has his head cut off by his own Razor Floss whip. And then a shipping crate on fire falls on top of his headless corpse, just in case there are any doubts as to whether or not he's actually dead.
  • Holy Hitman: A cyborg assassin who dresses like a Benedictine monk and spouts scripture. This character is taken all-too-literally from a brief mention in Neuromancer, when Molly describes the assassin who finally caught up with Johnny as being "like a monk," referring to his zen confidence.
  • Human Hard Drive: Johnny delivers digital data that is stored in is head.
  • I Just Want to Be Normal: Johnny's entire focus throughout the entire movie is to see that his neural implant is removed and his childhood memories are recovered. He also just wants a club sandwich and a hooker, but that's another story. Regardless, he's never all too happy about having the fate of the entire world on his shoulders, and, frankly, doesn't care all that much.
  • IKEA Weaponry: Johnny strips down his captured carbine to a more convenient pistol size.
  • Impaled Palms: Part of the Street Preacher's crucifixion motif, as seen when killing Spider and attempting to kill Jane.
  • Improbable Aiming Skills: From the top of his suspension bridge headquarters, J-Bone sights a mook on the ground several meters below, aims for a second, and fires an arrow straight into her open mouth.
  • I Need to Go Iron My Dog: In the opening of the film, Johnny's lady companion's explanation for leaving the hotel room in her coat is that she's "just getting some ice," which Johnny realizes they already have as she slams the door.
  • Information Wants to Be Free: The information Johnny is hired to deliver turns out to be the cure for a global disease NAS, while a Mega Corp. seeks to steal his head so it won't be given to the public. On the flip side, the underground resistance wants to share the information for free.
  • Informed Attribute: Jane is supposedly wired to the gills with cybernetic enhancements, but we never see her do anything superhuman or above ordinary with them. Most egregious of all, when the two bumbling Lo-Teks drop a car on top of Johnny and Jane, Jane—who is supposed to have Super Reflexes—never even seemed to notice this, and Johnny is the one needing to react to what was happening quickly enough to push Jane out of the way for her own safety.
  • Inside a Computer System
  • Jack Bauer Interrogation Technique: In tracking down Johnny, the Street Preacher has a penchant for torturing the people who he believes have useful information on Johnny's whereabouts, principally the bartender from the Cyberpunk club and Spider. It works. It's unclear but suggested that he kills his informants after they reveal to him everything they may know.
  • Japan Takes Over the World: The Yakuza is "the most powerful of all crime syndicates." Takahashi's standing with the Yakuza puts him in charge of overseeing an international corporation's regional operations in an American city; likewise Shinji is tasked by the corporation's headquarters in Zurich to carry out their dirty work across international borders.
  • Jerk Ass: Johnny always thinks only of himself and his own interests. In the events that follow Jane rescuing him from Ralfi and Shinji at the nightclub, Johnny returns the favor by scamming her "phone card" and even leaving her for dead in a pile of trash when she gets a seizure from her NAS condition. Johnny only takes her back after she insists that someone she knows can help him. He initially refuses every proposal to retrieve the data from his head, because there is always a risk that he may suffer permanent brain damage, despite the fact that he (and the rest of the world) would meet a worse fate if he leaves the data in his head, anyway. Even after discovering the data is a supercure that can help half of the world's population, he goes on an infamous rant whining about how he'd rather have a $10,000 hooker than save the lives of millions.
  • Karmic Death: The Street Preacher, who tended to put all his victims in a crucifixion pose, dies in this pose.
  • La Résistance: LoTeks, "A resistance movement risen from the streets: Hackers, data-pirates, guerrilla-fighters in the info-wars."
  • Large Ham: Dolph Lundgren as the unhinged, murderous, and often boisterous Street Preacher.
  • Laser-Guided Amnesia: When Johnny had his brain implant installed, only the memories of his childhood were removed.
  • Living MacGuffin: Dr. Allcome and, after that one served its full purpose, Jones.
  • Loads and Loads of Characters
  • MacGuffin: Like a Russian nesting doll, the most important function of the film's principal MacGuffins is to help Johnny acquire additional MacGuffins:
    • The narrative's most central and primary MacGuffin would be the three-image download code, which winds up separated into three parts and needs to be completed in order to retrieve:
      • The data Johnny uploaded into his brain, which he aims to transport and remove from his head in order to get back:
      • The lost memories of his childhood.
  • Made of Iron: The Street Preacher. A scan of his body indicates that much of his body has been replaced with bio mechanical parts and upgrades. J-Bone claims that the Preacher "doesn't have one natural bone left in his body." With his upgrades, the Street Preacher can get up and walk away from being hit by a van at high speed.
  • Magic Countdown: If Johnny can't get the 320 gigs of data out of his head in 24 hours, he will die and the data will be lost forever. However, Johnny always seems to have the maximum 24 hours available to him to complete his quest. After Johnny travels halfway around the world from Beijing to Newark (which should take up a bit of time one way or another), the Everything Sensor at customs in Newark still estimates that Johnny has a full 24 hours to seek medical attention. When nearly halfway through the movie, after Johnny has survived three more attempts by the yakuza to capture him and/or cut off his head and takes a nap in a subway tunnel, Takahashi still gives the Street Preacher a 24 hour deadline to bring him Johnny's head when, at this point in the movie, it would be much more plausible if there are only 12 or 13 hours left (at best) before the data is lost. (See Also: Race Against the Clock)
  • Mega Corp.: PharmaKom
  • Mexican Standoff: Between a groups of LoTeks and Yakuza / PharmaKom goons outside Ralfi's nightclub. Shinji and his Mooks wind up backing down from the confrontation, while threatening vengeance against the LoTeks.
  • Middle Management Mook: Takahashi is only the local head of PharmaKom who oversees the corporation's affairs within the Newark region. Takahashi's position of power is so subordinate to that of the Corrupt Corporate Executives on the Company Board (the real Big Bads of the movie, who are never named or seen in the entire story—apart from the former-CEO-turned-computer AI, and she isn't even a villainous character) that he isn't even made fully aware of his superiors' exact motivations for wanting Johnny's head or that they cheated him out of something which could have saved his young daughter's life.
  • Mr. Exposition: In the American re-cut, J-Bone is seen filling this role when observing Johnny "hack his own brain" from a private monitor and throws out nuggets of exposition to the audience so they can keep track with what's going on ("He's doubling himself", et. al.).
  • Mr. Smith: Johnny's obvious pseudo-surname when at the Beijing Hotel and on his passport on his flight to Newark. Johnny even throws his passport in the trash once he arrives in Newark so as to make it absolutely clear that Mr. Smith is not his real name.
  • My Skull Runneth Over: Johnny has knowingly put too much information into his head chip.
  • Mysterious Past: Johnny's backstory before he wiped his long-term memories and began working as a courier is vague and largely undefined. It is suggested at the end, after he regains his childhood memories, that his mother was the woman who became the Virtual Ghost on PharmaKom's computer mainframe, but this still leaves a lot about Johnny's past and how/why he even became a data courier in the first place unexplained.
  • The Needs of the Many: The data Johnny is carrying inside his head can save millions of lives. However, Johnny spends a significant portion of the movie putting his own life ahead of everybody else, as well as initially rejecting every proposal to retrieve the data because there is a chance that doing so could kill him or leave him with significant brain damage (even though he would die if he doesn't get the data out of his head, anyway). In the end, Johnny is convinced to go through with an attempt at removing the data from his head NOT because he'd be helping millions of other lives but because it's pointed out to him that that there being a chance that retrieving the data would kill him would also mean there is a chance he'd survive, whereas Johnny's other possible fate leaves him no such chance.
  • Neon Sign Hideout: Zigzagged, in addition to being a completely unintentional occurrence. Everything about the LoTeks' (who are the good guys) main base calls so much obvious attention to itself; it's located at a major, very noticeable local landmark (a suspension bridge); they run lights and electricity which makes their own living quarters on the bridge's underside visible for miles, and their main line of defense is to very unsubtly drop exploding cars directly beneath their location. But despite the massive attention all of this should bring to their hideout, it somehow remains a complete secret from their enemies until Johnny simply tells them where it is.
  • Neuro-Vault: This is the intent of Johnny's implant. He personally can't access the data, but neither can anyone else without the right code.
  • Niche Network: While watching TV at the very beginning of the movie, Johnny tunes in to The Nostalgia Channel.
  • Ninja Pirate Zombie Robot: Dolph Lundgren as the cyborg contract hitman who dresses as a Benedictine Monk.
  • Noodle Incident: Multiple instances. "The war" that Jane tells us Jones fought in, whatever the reason Strike owes Johnny a favor for, the past mistake that Shinji had to atone for before he got his molecuwire whip, and so forth...
  • Not Quite Dead: Subverted. For a moment, it appears that the cybernetic street preacher is picking himself up after seemingly being burned to death (accompanied with a note on the music score spelling absolute dread), only for a wider shot to reveal that a group of LoTeks are lifting the carcass off the ground with a pulley and disposing of it.
  • Off with His Head!: Everyone wants to cut off Johnny's head, as it contains a neural implant with important information on it.
  • One Last Job: Johnny wants to leave his line of work and restore his lost childhood memories. He agrees to do "one more run" for Ralfi in order to get enough money to afford an expensive "procedure" to restore those memories. However, the need for that money for that procedure is never brought up in the movie again, and he inexplicably ends up requiring neither money nor the procedure to get what he seeks.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: Spider, J-Bone, Baldy, Hooky, and Strike, principally. The film credits also identifies several bit-part characters who aren't given any names in the film itself by nicknames. Various LoTek characters with small speaking parts are identified in the credits as 'Toad', 'Stump', and 'Buddy'; the actor and actress who portray Ralfi's bodyguards are credited as 'Yomamma' and 'Pretty'.
  • Only One Name: His name is just "Johnny", which prompted the mockery of Spider. Since he sacrificed the memories of his childhood to make place for his cyber-implants. He apparently forgot his family name, which may or may not have been Kalmann, judging by the name of his mother, Anna Kalmann.
  • Opening Scroll: A pretty incomprehensible one at that, too.
  • Phlebotinum Dependence:
    • Paralon-B, one of the few publicly available treatments for NAS, is only available from PharmaKom at "Two grand per clinical unit."
      • Most metaphorically suggested where evidence of Jane's cybernetic implants are presented as resembling track marks, like a needle drug addict would have. Jane also suffers from NAS and goes through a form of "withdrawal" when she doesn't receive the drug treatments that she needs.
    • The extended Japanese cut of the movie reveals Jones, the dolphin, to be addicted to an unnamed drug. J-Bone explains that the Navy got him hooked on the stuff so he could work for them, and he continues to give Jones this drug so that he thinks he's still swimming.
  • Pin-Pulling Teeth: Jane pulls the pin from her pink hand grenade with her teeth. In a minor variation, she doesn't pull the pin itself, but rather the softer keychain attached to it.
  • The Plague: Nerve Attenuation Syndrome (aka NAS, "The Black Shakes") infects half the world's population by 2021. In Spider's words, this is a consequence of the overabundance of Wi-Fi electronic signals "poisoning the airwaves".
  • Plot Coupon: Several items are introduced with the purpose of advancing a single part of the story in the next one or two scenes that follow and never coming into play again.
    • The collapsible metal spear weapon that Jane acquires from the bartender is quickly used to rescue Johnny from the back room of Ralfi's nightclub.
    • Jane reveals her grenade to Johnny before he tells her that he needs to find a computer, only to use it in their getaway in the following scene, after Johnny accessed a computer.
    • Johnny steals a phone hacking tool from a computer storage room and immediately uses it in a subsequent scene to make contact with a member of PharmaKom.
  • Plot Hole:
    • In the movie's opening scenes, it's quickly understood that Johnny must undergo a very expensive and risky "procedure" in Chiba City to remove his brain implant if he were to regain the lost memories of his childhoodnote ; in fact, it's Johnny's deep desire to obtain enough money to have this procedure done that leads to him taking the courier gig in Beijing and setting the whole film's plot in motion. However, the story inexplicably concludes with Johnny's lost memories returning to him by simply completing the three-image download code which accesses the information that was stored in his Neuro-Vault. There is nothing done to explain how the download code for the data in Johnny's implant could return his lost memories to himwhen it was already established that Johnny needed to seek a completely different route to retrieve them, not to mention that the most immediate possible explanations mean his childhood memories were already a part of the data that Johnny uploaded onto his implant at the Beijing Hotel, which makes no logical sense and only raises more unanswered questions.
    • A point about Johnny having told the Yakuza the location of the LoTek headquarters is not adequately dealt with in the narrative. It's foreshadowed that Johnny should now be put at odds with the LoTeks faction or face some repercussions for this action; as Jane says, "Now if they don't kill you, J-Bone will." But this issue is abandoned immediately following this line. J-Bone and the LoTeks wind up giving full, unconditional assistance to the very person responsible for their enemies attacking them; Jane, who is supposed to be old friends with the LoTeks, (or Johnny, assuming he wasn't just being an idiot and had some crafty trick up his sleeve to squash the Yakuza) never gives J-Bone any forewarning that their enemies are on their way to lay siege to their hideout or tries to stress any need to prepare for this, and Johnny is never held accountable for what he had brought upon them for no rational reason.
    • Takahashi is seen arriving at the LoTek's base, located high above the ground on the underside of a suspension bridge, in a helicopter, while Shinji arrives with a tactical squad who climb up from beneath the bridge with specialized mechanical cable rigs... but the Street Preacher just suddenly appears in the heart of the LoTeks base without any indication of how he could scale the enormous architecture and find a way inside.
    • In Jane's first scene, where she tries to get work as a bodyguard for Ralfi, she never tells anyone her name (and no one else ever refers to her by her name). Later, when the audience does finally learn her name, it's said by Ralfi, who, previously, never demonstrated to have known her that well.
    • When Johnny and Jane are being chased by Shinji after their escape from Ralfi's nightclub, they receive protection from J-Bone and a large group of LoTeks ...who have no clear reason given for being there (it is already established before this scene that the LoTeks have their own headquarters, which is not where Johnny and Jane are when they're running from Shinji) and who were never given any notice that something was going down at Ralfi's nightclub which could use their attention. Presumably, we're led to believe that J-Bone and a very large group of his underlings were out on a single massive patrol and just so happened to fall on top of this situation by chance. J-Bone unconditionally helping Johnny in this situation also directly contradicts a prior scene in which J-Bone explicitly says that he doesn't feel he owes Johnny any favors without any adequate explanation as to why J-Bone would go back on his word about this.
    • After waking up in the subway tunnel, the filmmakers establish that Johnny's life-threatening condition from carrying too much computer data in his head is worsening, as we see a shot of Johnny's hands and fingers cramped up and twisted. However, in the cyberspace setpiece which subsequently follows this, Johnny is clearly observed making several complex actions and commands using his hands with great dexterity, quickness, and precision.
    • Specific to the Japanese cut of the movie is a scene where Johnny acquires his "memory doubler" before heading up to the hotel room to meet with his latest clients. The scene establishes that Johnny was expecting to receive much larger "upgrade" device and is disappointed that the best thing he can get a hold of is the doubler, even going so far as to end with Johnny remarking in his own words that it's "not even close" to what he would require for the job he signed on for. However, Johnny's entrance in the hotel room still plays out with the character asking his clients how much data they are uploading and suddenly being surprised to learn it would greatly exceed his storage capacity.
    • An ending revelation that the Virtual Ghost was Johnny's mother when she was still living and working as the Founder and CEO of PharmaKom leaves a lot of crucial details about Johnny's past, between his forgotten childhood and when he began working as a data courier, unexplained. Principally, why did someone raised in a life of wealth and privilege become separated from his gilded upbringing, why would he have ever chosen to forget his past and do work far beneath anyone of his initial social stature, and why would he not already have a significant inheritance from his family's estate to allow him to afford the "procedure" he originally sought to restore his childhood memories and leave his line of work at any time he'd please?
  • Post Final Boss: After the movie's most threatening antagonists (Shinji and the Street Preacher) are dealt with, Johnny still has to "hack his own brain" where he has to contend with a computer virus, which isn't anywhere near as dangerous (or as interesting) as the other enemies Johnny had to deal with.
  • Posthumous Character: Takahashi's daughter.
  • Powers That Be: We're told that the upper echelons of the PharmaKom corporate ladder are the ones responsible for wanting the cure to NAS suppressed and establishing the entire evil conflict, but who these people are, how they rationalize running their business the way they do, and what happens to them by the end of the story is a mystery.
  • Punctuated! For! Emphasis!: Johhny's "I... want... roomservice!" rant.
  • Race Against the Clock: Although this trope is intended to be present, it is never properly utilized to build tension or any sense of urgency. Johnny is supposed to be facing a 24-hour deadline to remove all the computer data from his head, or else he'll die. However, nothing is ever done to inform the viewer of how much time is remaining for Johnny to complete his task as the story progresses. Whenever anybody (or anything) mentions this deadline, the full 24 hours is always stated no matter how much time may have actually passed, and after the Street Preacher is introduced roughly halfway through the movie, the deadline is never brought up again. (See Also: Magic Countdown)
  • Razor Floss: The yakuza assassin's molecuwire whip.
  • Rebel Leader: J-Bone, leader the LoTeks resistance in fighting the corporate establishment, who takes no hesitation to announce his status and reveal the LoTeks' secret base to total strangers.
  • Redemption Equals Death:
    • Takahashi is shot the very moment he balks at the opportunity to kill Johnny. In his final act before dying, he gives Johnny the second image of the download code.
    • A huge moron in the LoTeks faction, whose first key decision is to drop an exploding car on a friend's van as a "joke" (and still somehow managing to trip and fall on top of the drop switch after making his intentions clear), is later able to take out a single Mook with another exploding car while collapsing dead over the same switch.
  • The Reveal: The data in Johnny's head is the cure for the global plague, "Jones" is a cyborg dolphin, and the Electronic Ghost Woman is Johnny's mother.
  • Rope Bridge: The LoTek headquarters has one, complete with rickety wooden planks that snap the second one sets a foot down on them, suspended with steel chains. Shinji corners Johnny on it, and somehow, they both end up falling through it.
  • Sapient Cetaceans: Jones is revealed to be a genetically modified super-smart dolphin, originally created by the military for submarine warfare.
  • Schizo Tech: Descriptive of the LoTeks' relationship with technology.
  • Shout-Out:
    • Before Baldy attempts to execute Johnny, he says, "Time to die"—a reference to Blade Runner.
    • In the hotel room where Johnny uploads the data that gets in his head, there's a brief shot of Humphrey Bogart appearing in The Big Sleep, which Johnny switches off. This is in reference to Keanu Reeve's character bearing something of a resemblance to the tough, cynical personality Bogart would be best remembered for in films, particularly Rick Blaine from Casablanca. Mind, Rick Blaine is a callous character, remarking that he doesn’t “stick [his] neck out for anyone”, who, by the end of the film, rejoins the good fight against the Nazis.
    • The shot where the camera pulls back inside a train station to reveal Johnny surrounded by dozens of suffering plague victims is a very low-scale version of a much grander dolly shot from Gone with the Wind, where Scarlett O'Hara finds the Confederate casualties of the Battle of Atlanta in a rail yard.
    • In the Japanese cut, a brief mention of the future sport Rollerball can be heard on television while Johnny is channel surfing in bed in the opening scene.
    • Scenes from Demon City Shinjuku are shown on TV during the hotel room raid.
    • Spider's lab is intended to parallel Dr. Frankenstein's, which, by extension, makes the relationship he has with Jane and the body augmentations he performed on her analogous to The Bride of Frankenstein.
    • The Everything Sensor at customs in Newark has an "eye" scanner that resembles HAL 9000 from 2001: A Space Odyssey.
  • Society Marches On: J-Bone explains the LoTeks' tactics as hijacking television signals from "their 500-channel universe," and generally suggests that television is the dominant brain-rotting, tool of oppression used by The Man. Apparently, William Gibson never accounted for the brain-rotting potential of the Internet.
  • So Was X:
    Johnny: They'll negotiate; they're corporate.
    Jane: So is the Yakuza.
  • Stealth Hi/Bye: J-Bone vanishes while Johnny has his back turned, observing Heaven, along with the dead body of a Lo-Tek Redshirt, which J-Bone (presumably?) must have carried with him.
  • Strapped to an Operating Table: Johnny is strapped to a table in the back of Ralfi's nightclub so Shinji could cut off his head.
  • Suddenly Always Knew That:
    • As Johnny calls out for various parts that he needs to assemble a VR rig, Jane, who doesn't have any established familiarity with cyberspace navigation or VR computer equipment, is able to find and gather these products from around a storage room with ease and efficiency.
    • By the end of the film, it's suddenly revealed without prior buildup or explanation that Johnny is capable of cloning his own mental consciousness and digitally projected avatar when inside computer systems (referred to as "doubling" by J-Bone in the American edit; unexplained in other cuts of the film) to survive attacks from lethal computer viruses and protection software.
  • Super Reflexes: Jane, so we're told.
  • Stupid Evil: If PharmaKom didn't want anyone to have a cure for NAS (not even themselves and their own families and loved ones who may be sick), then they didn't need to go through all the trouble of investing their resources on researching, developing, and testing an actual working cure for the sake of having to hide it from everybody. Alternatively, if they developed the cure before deciding nobody should have it, it would have been easier for them to promptly destroy the research, instead of keeping it buried on a computer mainframe for the past year-and-a-half before the events of the film take place, where it could potentially be discovered and leaked (Go on, guess what happens).
  • Swiss Bank Account: Johnny's contacts in Beijing make a point to tell him that half of the fee Johnny is owed for transporting their data was wired in advance to a "Swiss account", as they were instructed to do.
  • Switch to English: Takahashi and Shinji begin a conversation in Japanese, before Takahashi chastises Shinji for speaking "terrible" Japanese and demands Shinji talk to him in English. Towards the end of their conversation, Takahashi switches to English, as well.
  • Tap on the Head: Johnny gets cold-cocked, which causes concern about potential damage to his neural implant.
  • Throwing the Distraction: Johnny throws a small rock, which sends Baldy looking for him in the wrong direction.
  • Toplessness from the Back: Jane, played by Dina Meyer, who never seems to shy from nudity.
  • Transhuman: The cyborg street preacher. Details about this are explored more in the film's Japanese release (the "director's cut"), which includes an additional scene where this character preaches about God's plan for people to reject their organic bodies and embrace bio-mechanics and cybernetics, especially to save oneself from the NAS plague. He refers to himself as a "post-human". In the American release, the most that's hinted about these views comes in a passing reference to the name of the church the which the preacher is aligned with—The Church of the Retransfiguration.
  • Travelling at the Speed of Plot:
    • Once Johnny makes it out of the hotel in Central Beijing, his subsequent arrival at the Newark airport on the other side of the world is practically instantaneous. The plane trip alone would take about 13-and-a-half hours today and would still take over 7-8 hours on the Concorde that is shown, but when Johnny arrives at customs in Newark, expository dialogue still mentions the maximum 24-hour deadline for Johnny to get the data out of his head, which he uploaded in Beijing before even getting to an airport. (See Also: Magic Countdown)
    • Inverted for Shinji and his Mooks taking an elevator from the lobby of the hotel in Beijing to the floor where Johnny and his present clients are; what would realistically be a seemingly brief moment is slowed to a crawl while concurring plot points (which are important) play out in the hotel room in their own time. It takes the entire length of time for Johnny to prepare for uploading the data (starting with when Johnny opens his briefcase containing his equipment), receive the data, and make a printout of the download code (roughly two minutes and forty-two seconds, and that's just the elapsed time on-screen) just for the elevator the bad guys are in to finally arrive on the same floor. It then takes the bad guys another minute and a half of of the movie's time length (enough time for Johnny's clients to destroy the original copy of the data they gave him and for Johnny himself to regain his composure in the bathroom) to walk from the elevator to their hotel room door.
  • Unusual User Interface:
    • Dedicated web surfing, for more than just phone calls, uses VR goggles and gloves that project a three-dimensional representation of the internet, manipulated by the user's hands. They even grow claws when "attacking". Taken up a notch with the Lo-Tek's scavenged VR rig, which allows for a full mental projection of the user.
    • Making a call to Beijing first requires reaching out and pointing to a spot on an unlabeled map of the entire world. Try being that accurate with Google Maps.
  • Vapor Wear: Jane wears a chainmail shirt without a bra underneath.
  • Video Phone: The story opens with the main character making a call on a video phone that also doubles as a television and an alarm clock, all of which can be operated by remote control. Another such phone shows up in the back of a future taxi cab, and the Street Preacher has one hidden in his Bible (or whatever Holy Book equivalent he has). Video phone screens are also branded with AT&T's company logo, AT&T having tried to develop such technology since the 1960's.
  • Virtual Ghost: Anna Kalmann, the founder of PharmaKom. Takahashi explicitly calls her "A Ghost in the Machine."
  • We Will Use WikiWords in the Future: The Evil Drug Company is called PharmaKom. It's an abbreviation of "Pharma" (Latin for "drug") and "Kominat" (Russian for "combine"). On the flip side, the underground resistance fighting the corporation is the LoTeks, presumably shortened from the English words "Low" and "Technology".
  • What Happened to the Mouse?:
    • One of Ralfi's bodyguards accompanies Shinji in chasing Johnny and Jane after they escape from Ralfi's club only to vanish from the story without explanation after the chase ends.
    • Jane goes out of her way in the middle of a getaway chase to retrieve her "gear" that she keeps hidden in a pile of trash. Later, she mentions that this very important equipment that she needed includes a can of mace, which is not used at any later point in the narrative.
    • Inverted in another instance. After Johnny flees the hotel room where he uploaded the data is a shot of yakuza mooks running through a hallway and past what appear to be dead bodies on the ground. We know what happened to these incredibly superfluous mice... but not who they were, what they were doing in the hallway, who killed them, why they were killed, or when they were killed during the entire sequence of events that transpires on the hotel floor.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Jane calls out Johnny on divulging the location of the LoTek rebellion to their enemies, pointing out the obvious that J-Bone wouldn't be too pleased about this. This detail is then dropped by the narrative and never adequately dealt with.
  • Withholding the Cure: It is revealed that PharmaKom is suppressing the cure for Nerve Attenuation Syndrome.
  • Working for a Body Upgrade:
    • The street preacher accepts contract killing offers in exchange for money so he can afford to replace his organic body parts with cybernetic ones.
    • Inverted, while Johnny's motivations are established in the opening scenes. Johnny signs on for the courier assignment in Beijing because he needs the money to have his own brain implant removed.
  • Yakuza: "The most powerful of all crime syndicates," hired by "the corporations" to defend themselves from the LoTeks.
  • You Gotta Have Blue Hair: The techno-metal opera singer at the night club has blue hair.
  • Your Mom:
    Street Preacher: Who is "Jones"?
    Spider: He's that guy... who fucks your mother!
  • Yubitsume: Invoked. When we first meet Takahashi, he tells Shinji, "I see you turned your shame into an asset," implying that at some point Shinji cut off the tip of his thumb to atone for a past dishonor before replacing it with his molecuwire whip.

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Film/JohnnyMnemonic