An Underrated Keanu Reeves Movie Is Being Released In Black And White
Shut up and take our money!
When you think of Keanu Reeves movies, a few modern classics come to mind. The Matrix (not the new one), Speed, Point Break, and John Wick rank among his best, but Reeves has had a long career, and he has a handful of films that have managed to fly under the radar. One of them has become a bit of a cult classic, and is about to get a new life in black and white: 1995’s Johnny Mnemonic. The dystopian sci-fi action flick is coming to Blu-ray this August from Sony Pictures, this time, sporting a black and white video presentation, to better highlight the film’s neo-noir setting.
Although Sony has not made an official announcement, Dawn of the Discs discovered a listing with online retailer MovieZyng Warehouse, indicating an August 16 release for the Keanu Reeves flick. According to the listing, the Blu-ray includes a black and white version of the film, and it does not appear that the theatrical color version will be included. Bonus features are scarce: only a featurette and a theatrical trailer. It does include a DTS 5.1 soundtrack.
The film is directed by Robert Longo, and it’s his feature film directorial debut, as his prior work had mostly been directing music videos for groups like REM and Megadeth. Keanu Reeves plays Johnny, a black market courier who delivers data the only safe way: by having it wet-wired directly into his brain. When a job goes wrong, Johnny becomes the target of an international hunt, with assassins out to get what’s stored in his head. Worse yet, his own personal memories were removed so the new data would “fit,” so he must complete the job to get his life back. The film also stars Dolph Lundgren (who doesn’t show up until halfway into the film), Takeshi (Battle Royale), Ice-T (who likely doesn’t want to talk about his role here), Dina Meyer (who would have a memorable turn as Dizzy Flores in Starship Troopers two years later) and Henry Rollins.
With a reported $26 million budget, the film flopped at the box office, despite Reeves still flying high from the success of Speed the year before. It grossed only $19 million at the box office, and scored a dismal 18% on Rotten Tomatoes. The low score is earned, regardless of the film’s appeal. Some of the attempts to be edgy don’t quite land, and some are downright laughable. When the film shifts the setting to the “Free City of Newark” (complete with title card), I couldn’t help but laugh at how unimpressive it sounded. The acting is often way over-the-top, including Keanu Reeves, who shifts from monotone to overly-dramatic at a moment’s notice.
Although released in 1995, the film has a definite 80s vibe to it, including the depiction of a dystopian future where the villains wear chainmail and sport big hair and lots of heavy makeup. Yet, Keanu Reeves cut a memorable figure by wearing a black suit the entire film, much like the “Agent Smith” he would do battle with a few years later on-screen. Ironically, his character’s codename while on the job is Smith, which provides an unintentional laugh seeing the film now. Despite the B-movie vibe, the movie found a dedicated fan base over the years, and in 2021, Longo premiered a black and white version of the film at the Tribeca Film Festival, saying that it was closer to his original vision.