‘The Matrix’ Fans Need to Watch This Keanu Reeves Sci-Fi Film
Few actors are more interesting than Keanu Reeves. With a career going back nearly 40 years, Reeves shows one doesn’t have to fit the standard mold to be a legend. The Matrix star built a devoted fan base by remaining true to himself, broadening his horizons, and giving people what they want. In the case of the science-fiction film Johnny Mnemonic, however, Reeves might hope you forget the accidental classic.
Keanu Reeves and sci-fi
Reeves has never played by Hollywood’s standard rules. While his biggest hits are often action titles, his work in The Replacements, Much Ado About Nothing, and other works across the board show a man who’s willing to stretch his chops. The results may be a mixed bag, but they paint a man more devoted to his craft than people give him credit for.
Despite John Wick and other action hits, however, his love for science fiction still defines him. From the obvious Matrix to newer films such as Replicas, 47 Ronin, and a slew of others let Reeves fulfill his greatest passion. Furthermore, the actor has a Boom! Comic book series and upcoming adaptation that comes from his mind. Even films like the Bill and Ted trilogy, while comedies are science fiction at their core.
It’s safe to say that Reeves loves science fiction. However, the movie that started his science-fiction action career is an oft-forgotten cult classic as memorable for its failures as The Matrix is its triumphs.
The strangest story ever told
Reeves rarely speaks about Johnny Mnemonic, which has retroactively gained fans due to its bizarre nature and Reeves’ never-ending star power a quarter-century later. However, director Robert Longo spoke to The Hollywood Reporter back in 2016. Johnny Mnemonic told the story of its titular character, played by Reeves, as he coped with a brain filled with all the knowledge in a strange, cyberpunk world.
It has all the makings of a Reeves classic. The actor is true to form, playing the robotic, albeit lovable Johnny in his iconic style. It was a $28 million experiment of Reeves’ power. However, the film was designed to appeal to fans across the world. Reeves had the star power in the States, but in a pre-Matrix universe, the studio wanted more. They hired Ice-T and Dolph Lundgreen.
“Each week, they came back and told me I had to have a new actor. To sell the movie in the Middle East, we have to have Dolph Lundgren. Oh f—! No!” Longo recalled was his reaction. “Dolph shows up with his acting coach, a guy with a cape and a cane. We said, ‘Get the f— out of here!'”
They found a role for the Swedish rocket-scientist-turned-bodyguard-turned-actor—a cybernetic street preacher who violently inflicts his holy message on the masses. Longo has since decried the decision. Twenty-five years later, the film is something of a cult classic despite its terrible reviews at release.
The wrong kind of hit
By pretty much every metric, Mnemonic was a Hollywood flop. It made pennies on the dollar on a budget that, at its time, was already astronomical.
It came during a time between Reeves’ success with Speed and the career-defining film The Matrix. However, as Inverse notes, its dated take on technology combined with Reeves’ ‘continued success have given it a longer shelf-life than anyone, including Longo, could have expected.
“It was torturous. We tried to make the best move we could. It was really hard. I talked to William recently. William and I had post-traumatic stress from that movie. I said, ‘Y’know what, I’m going to turn it black and white for the 25th anniversary and rerelease it on the web. Actually, right now, we’re in the process of trying to figure out how to do it, the 45-minute version of it without Dolph,” Longo told The Hollywood Reporter.
The 25th anniversary has come and gone without this Dolphless director’s cut. However, Reeves’ science fiction career lives on thanks to films like the upcoming Matrix sequel and the videogame Cyberpunk2077. He might not be lauded as one of the greatest actors ever, but Reeves’s inclusion in films like Cyberpunk help show why his career is a success.
After all, he has long been critiqued for his lack of range, and the film was an utter failure at its release. Still, 25 years onward, it remains a staple of the Cyberpunk genre and, ironic or not has generations of new fans clamoring to watch it.