“Johnny Mnemonic” and “Virtuosity”

In the spirit of science fiction, 1995, “Bill & Ted,” and “Safe House” I developed a hankering for Keanu Reeves’ “Johnny Mnemonic” and Denzel Washington’s “Virtuosity.”  I ended up being able to pick up both for under four dollars at the local Hastings—quite a bargain!

“Johnny Mnemonic” with Keanu Reeves, Dolph Lundgren, Dina Meyer, and Ice-T (1995)


“Johnny Mnemonic” is a cyberpunk film set in 2021 in a world where corporations rule the world.  Keanu Reeves plays a smuggler by the name of Johnny Mnemonic who uses a brain implant to smuggle information back and forth between the highest bidders.  In his last job he overloads his implant, gets caught up in a resistance movement, is hunted by a cyborg preacher, and eventually cures the human race of a fatale disease dubbed, “The Black Shakes.”

The film is in complete cyberpunk territory and poses some interesting questions considering that at the time of the film’s creation the true dawn of the information age and personal computer was just beginning to sweep through society.  Keanu’s acting is well…Keanu ‘acting,’ but personally I don’t expect much from him and there are times when I just want to see a Keanu Reeves film.  Ice-T plays a great resistance leader and Dolph Lundgren’s character is all but useless in this movie.  There is already a great villain (a Yakuza member with an electric whip!), so why include a cheesy “Street Preacher” played by Lundgren?

Definitely check this out for a slice of guilty pleasure; it’s worth the hour-and-a-half.

“Virtuosity” with Denzel Washington and Russell Crowe (1995) 


“Virtuosity” is another throwback to ’95 and also pertains to the emergence of personal computers and virtual reality.  Denzel Washington plays a cop (Parker Barnes) turned convict due to his act of vengeance on the political terrorist who murdered his wife and daughter.  As a convict he is enrolled in a program that places him in a virtual reality where he must hunt a computerized serial killer who is an amalgamation of almost every infamous killer imaginable—even the one that murdered his family!

As the plot unfolds the computerized serial killer, Sid 6.7, escapes the program via nano-machines and begins to terrorize L.A.  Denzel Washington’s character is pardoned from prison one condition: he must stop Sid.

This movie is a great techno-thriller and throws in some nifty science to flesh out the story.  Russell Crow plays Sid 6.7 masterfully.  He is creepy, sadistic, and is incredibly believable as a serial killer.  Crowe’s performance in “Virtuosity” is by far the standout of the film.


“Safe House”

Safe House” with Denzel Washington and Ryan Reynolds (2012)


“Safe House” is essentially a film about Matt Weston.  Matt, played by Ryan Reynolds, is a young CIA agent trying to make it the upper echelons of the company.  He wants excitement and fieldwork, but instead he sits in a ‘safe house’ in South Africa for hours on end doing absolutely nothing.  Outside of work he has a great relationship, but unfortunately because of his occupation it is founded on lies (at least on his part). 

Everything is boringly traveling along until Tobin Frost (Denzel Washington) is captured and taken to Weston’s safe house.  Frost is a rogue CIA agent who has been estranged from the company for years.  Supposedly he has spent his time abroad aiding and abetting terrorists for money, but during a mission that goes awry he is captured by the CIA and hauled into the nearest safe house.

The action bursts forth after Tobin Frost is brought to the safe house and ultimately it places Weston between a rock and hard place forcing him to grapple with a more experienced agent, a possible mole in the CIA, and a relationship on the rocks.  Basically he has to learn as he goes or face the dangerous alternatives.

 The film’s plot is fairly basic and follows the same rhythms of many espionage/thriller films, however, the one-on-one fight scenes are superbly choreographed.  Several fights scenes toward the end have you cringing, but are laced with an aura believability and edge of your seat thrills.

Now, because the film doesn’t deviant from the standard palpitations I heard that many people were disappointed and some went insofar as to that the plot was shallow and cliché.  I greatly disagree.  The focus of “Safe House” was on the acting and dialogue.  Many of the deeper facets of the film were hidden in dialogue queues, repetition, tone, and gestures.  If you missed the subtle clues to the underlying relationship between Frost and Weston and concentrated solely on what was more overt and direct it would be easy to miss the relationship that develops between Ryan Reynolds’ character and Denzel Washington’s.

There is a deep connection between the two that is not word-for-word explained, but certain clues within in their conversation provide more in depth explanations than one might realize.  This relationship is what drives the film, whilst simultaneously showcasing the acting talents of the two aforementioned actors.  I highly recommend this movie; just make sure to pay attention to the dialogue to get the full feel of the film.

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