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Johnny Mnemonic (Japanese Director’s Cut)


‘…Johnny Mnemonic’s journey from zero to hero is more prescient than ever in 2022…’

My regular reader will know of my love/hate relationship with Robort Longo’s sci-fi action cyberpunk thriller Johnny Mnemonic; first sighted back in 1995, this really didn’t make much sense to me at the time. Times change, and I was somewhat surprised to find when I reviewed this last year to be a much smarter and better movie than I remembered. And when the trusted sources at 101 Films Black label offers up a new blu-ray, complete with a largely unseen cut of the film, it seemed like one more trip to the matrix-less-visited was required…

“I want a full restoration,’ says Johnny (Keanu Reeves) and indeed, that’s what we get; although this Japanese Director’s Cut is presented in SD, it’s still the best version of the story yet. Adapted for the screen by visionary writer William Gibson from his own short story, we’re taking a trip forward in time to the imaginable future of 2021, where mnemonic couriers transport information via the data drives in their head, although Gibson didn’t seem to second guess our urge to excess; the amounts of data Johnny carries in his head seem comically small. Johnny travels to Beijing to glamorous, erm New Jersey, with a ticking clock in the form of the knowledge that if his data isn’t extracted on time, Johnny’s head will pretty much explode with the pressure. This journey is more picaresque than the man-on-a-mission movie that might be anticipated, with a number of randos to be encountered including Henry Rollins as a bespectacled techno-geek, tougho bodyguard Jane (Dina Meyer), anti-establishment rebel J-Bone (Ice-T, of course) perennial futuristic personnel Barbara Sukowa and Udo Keir, and manic street preacher Dolph Lundgren and his visibly augmented body.

Bacjk in 1995, Johnny Mnemonic was easy to mock; Reeves was yet to nail the genre with the game-changing The Matrix, and the convoluted machinations depicted here were incomprehensible in a world where dial-up was barely a thing. But Gibson’s ideas win out; dystopian future ruled by corporations? Check. Virus attacking the unwary, affecting their nervous systems? Check. Meltdowns caused by the psychological cost of living in a digital world when physical existence feels exhausting? Check. Much as it pains me to say it, each viewing of Longo’s film makes it seem more prescient; if another new cut is unearthed, it’ll probably start with a shot of me searching my pockets for a mask before entering a socially-distanced super-market.

As well as commentaries and a relevant short by Gibson, plus the US cut of the movie for comparison purposes, this is the first chance for UK audiences to see the film’s Japanese cut, and if you have any interest in this film, it’s well worth the cash. The cutting makes much more sense, and feels more iconic from the opening credits onwards, and crucially, there’s a different score by the excellent Mycheal Danna which provides the emotional through-line to Johnny’s story that we’ve never had before. That’s not to say that Johnny Mnemonic never gets bogged down in tech-talk, it always does, but Longo’s experimental notions about depicting our future find an effective  realisation here. Gibson and Reeves have both been big influences on how we see what’s coming next, and Johnny Mnemonic’s journey from zero to hero is more prescient than ever in 2022.

Thanks to 101 Black Label for access to this blu-ray, out from May 9th 2022.

You can buy this from…

Johnny Mnemonic (1995) (Limited Edition)



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    • I can’t believe I’m last to this party, it’s taken me 25 years to get round to liking this, but everyone else seems to have got there first…

      • I enjoyed it the first time I saw it back in 2007, but not when I re watched in 2020, from my review though a quote by Gibson who wrote the short story- “Basically what happened was it was taken away and re-cut by the American distributor in the last month of its pre-release life, and it went from being a very funny, very alternative piece of work to being something that had been very unsuccessfully chopped and cut into something more mainstream“.

        AM presuming/hoping this version has been unchopped but I can’t see ow it was ever funny.

        • It’s no laugh riot, but there is humour which works better here.

          How does it compare to a film I know you to be familiar with, Death Bed: The Bed That Eats You?

          • That’s mad isn’t it? Nothing like it really, though a bed that eats people is quite funny if you are not the snack. No demons in Johnny M either so there’s that.

  1. I liked the original when I eventually got around to watching it (sometime in the 20teens I believe) but I’d had enough SF experience from the 90’s on that I probably would have enjoyed it back then too.
    This version sounds like it is worth checking out but am not sure if I’m $25 interested. We’ll have to see when it comes to amazon.

    • I hear you, and yes, I can’t believe I’ve done a complete 180 on this film. But there’s almost too many changes to note, and it was certainly my most enjoyable watch of this to date…

  2. If any movie has come into its own as a result of the world hurling into a tech nightmare of its own making this is it. I was once of the few genuine admirers at the time and also I guess of the way Reeves slips into futuristic mode. Great to see a director’s cut that actually makes more sense of an original rather than bringing out something marginally different to make a few bucks.

    • …is the correct answer. If I was in 1995 and saw the future, the most surprising thing would be how differently I see this film in 2022. It depicts a cyber-headache that was pure science-fiction to me then, but feels very familiar now. Having been a hater, I’ve changed my stance; this got it right, and we just didn’t know it at the time. Well, maybe adept futurists like yourself got it from the get go, but it took me a while…

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