"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 safety limits (and will thus kill him if the data isn't removed in time), 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 American-made movie, and whose role in the Japanese version of the film was slightly expanded.Also has a little-known Full Motion Video game for the 3DO with different actors, as well as a a pinball adaptation that is much better received than the movie itself.
Jane, though her counterpart Molly Millions in the short story is far more Bad Ass. Molly is a cybernetically enhanced razorgirl, while Jane suffers from a neurodegenerative disease. Johnny is also much tougher in the film than in the original story, requiring less protection from Jane.
There’s also a female Yakuza soldier who goes ballistic with a rocket launcher during the assault on Heaven.
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.
Adaptation Expansion: The film expands on the 22-page short story and even borrows from Gibson's other stories set in The Sprawl.
Air-Vent Passageway: Jane uses one after Ralfi and his bodyguards carry an unconscious Johnny to a backroom 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.
Artistic License - Economics: The evil Mega Corp intends to suppress the cure for a deadly disease which half the world's population suffers from, the logic being that "treating the disease would be more profitable than curing it." However, their treatments 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. In this circumstance, one could expect that an outright cure would ultimately yield a greater profit because it would be cheaper (especially if consumers only need to pay for a one-time dose or prescription) and 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).
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.
Berserk Button: Don't call Jones a fish or he'll fry you with his microwave dish.
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.
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 LoTek's 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".
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).
Deus ex Machina: During the climax, Johnny is saved from being killed by Takahashi, thanks to the last-second intervention of the electronic ghost woman, who (as an AI program stored in PharmaKom's computer network) somehow manages to appear on monitors in the LoTeks' base and reveal a lot of exposition which even we as an audience didn't know about before this scene. Importantly, while we would have 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.
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 espouses medical advice when it notices any health risks (such as "synaptic seepage" from a brain implant).
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 had 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.
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)
Green Aesop: "Wanna know what causes NAS? THIS causes it! THIS causes it! THIS causes it! And we need this shit to survive!"
Heroic Dolphin: Jones is a dolphin with cybernetic implants who helps Johnny retrieve the data from his head.
Heroic Sacrifice: Spidergives 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.
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.
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.
Information Wants to Be Free: The information Johnny is hired to deliver turns out to be the cure for a global disease, 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 Ability: Jane is supposedly wired to the gills with cybernetic enhancements, but we never see her do anything superhuman, let alone extraordinary. 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 faster reflexes—never even seemed to notice this and had to rely on Johnny to quickly realize what was happening with enough time to allow him to push her out of the way of the falling car.
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."
The download code to retrieve the data in Johnny's head.
Subsequently, the data in Johnny's head.
Johnny's childhood memories.
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. 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.
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: J-Bone fills 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.
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 would bring to their hideout, it somehow remains a complete secret from their enemies until Johnny simply tells them where it is.
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!: An assassin is told to return with Johnny's head, as it contains a neural implant with important information on it.
Paralon-B, one of the few publicly available treatments for NAS, is only available from PharmaKom at "Two grand per clinical unit."
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 subversion, she doesn't pull the pin itself, but rather the softer keychain attached to it.
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 collapsable 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
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 If not, to restore the literal chunk of his brain which housed those memories and was removed to make room for his Neuro-Vault.; 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 access the lost memories when 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 unlocks with the completed download code, which makes even less sense and raises even more 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 warns J-Bone that their enemies are on their way to take siege of their hideout, and Johnny suffers no consequences for what he had done to them for no rational reason.
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 Johnny's condition as getting worse with a shot of his hands and fingers cramping up. However, in the cyberspace setpiece which subsequently follows this, Johnny is clearly observed making several complex actions and commands using his hands with deftness 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 the doubler would not give Johnny adequate memory space for the job he signed on for, even so much as ending with Johnny himself remarking in his own words that his storage capacity is "not even close" to what would be required; however, Johnny's entrance in the hotel room still plays out with the character asking his clients how much data they are uploading and being surprised to learn it would vastly exceed his storage capacity.
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.
Race Against the Clock: Although the trope is intended to be present, it is never properly used to build tension or any real sense of urgency. Johnny is supposed to have 24 hours to remove all the computer data from his head, or his head will explode or... something. However, nothing is ever done to tell the viewer how much time Johnny actually has left to complete his task. Whenever anybody (or anything) mentions this deadline, the maximum 24 hours is always given no matter how much time may have actually passed. (See Also: Magic Countdown)
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.
Before Baldy attempts to execute Johnny, he says, "Time to die"—a reference to Blade Runner.
There's a brief glimpse of Humphrey Bogart on the television in the hotel room where Johnny uploads the data that gets in his head. Which, I guess, is a reference to Keanu's character sort of being like Bogart's 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 particular shot of Bogart itself comes from The Maltese Falcon, a movie widely remembered for its titular MacGuffin; the scene in which this shot appears in Johnny Mnemonic exists to establish the narrative's own principal MacGuffins.
The shot where the camera tracks back inside a train station to reveal Johnny surrounded by dozens of suffering plague victims is a very low-scale version of a similar shot in a railyard from Gone with the Wind.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Johnny's commercial flight from Beijing to Newark (which would take about a minimum 13-and-a-half hours today, and would still take over 5 hours on the Concorde that is shown) is nearly instantaneous. When Johnny arrives at customs in Newark, expository dialogue still gives Johnny the maximum 24-hour deadline 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.
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.
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".
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.
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, who killed them, why they were killed, or when they were killed during the entire sequence of events that transpired.
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.
Yakuza: "The most powerful of all crime syndicates," hired by "the corporations" to defend themselves from the LoTeks.
Yubitsume: Invoked. When we first see Takahashi, he tells Shinji, "I see you turned your shame into an asset," implying that at some point Shinji had to cut off the tip of his thumb to atone for a past mistake before replacing it with his molecuwire whip.