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Johnny Mnemonic (1995)

SYNOPSIS

!! SPOILER ALERT !!

"I can carry nearly eighty gigs of data in my head."

"Second decade of the 21st century. Corporations rule. The world is threatened by a new plague: NAS. Nerve Attenuation Syndrome, fatal, epidemic. its cause and cure unknown. The corporations are opposed by the LoTeks, a resistance movement risen from the streets: hackers, data-pirates, guerilla-fighters in the info-wars. The corporations defend themselves. They hire the Yakuza, the most powerful of all crime syndicates. They sheath their data in black ice, lethal viruses waiting to burn the brains of intruders. But the LoTeks wait in their strongholds, in the old city cores, like rats in the walls of the world. The most valuable information must sometimes be entrusted to mnemonic couriers, elite agents who smuggle data in wet-wired brain implants" - opening crawl

Beijing, 2021: Johnny, a mnemonic courier, wakes in a room at the New Darwin Hotel. He has spent the night with a woman he doesn't know, and she leaves quickly, leaving Johnny alone in his room. Johnny has had implants inserted into his brain that help him to carry valuable data, but at a cost - large chunks of his memory, including almost all of his childhood, have had to be jettisoned.

Johnny calls his agent, Ralfi Face in the Free City of Newark to get his latest job. Johnny wants the implants in his head removed and the memories he has lost restored to him. Ralfi tells him that if he makes one last run, he will be able to afford the extortionate prices being asked by the Chiba City surgeons.

When Johnny arrives at the hotel where he is to make his pick-up, he sees a brief interruption in a television broadcast by the LoTek hackers. In an elevator, he operates his latest gadget - a doubler that ups his storage capacity to 160 gigabytes and which warns him not to exceed the safety capacity. To do so could lead to "synaptic seepage" which could kill him within two or three days.

Johnny meets the paranoid Japanese scientists, defectors from Pharmakom's Research and Development team, who have hired him to ferry their data. They tell him that the data he has to carry will be 320Gb - despite the risks involved, Johnny agrees to take on the job and begins to download the data. He has one of the scientists insert random frames from a TV broadcast to act as the key which will allow his contact in Newark to retrieve the data on arrival.

Unknown to Johnny, however, a gang of Yakuza assassins is in the hotel and heading his way. The download is successful, but the scientists are killed when the Yakuza gang break in. Johnny is barely able to get away with his life, but he loses the hard copy of the three TV frames that will allow him to release the data. His only hope now rests with the fax transmission carrying the information to the contact in Newark.

Johnny has already started to feel the effects of synaptic seepage, getting strange flashes from the data in his head and suffering nosebleeds. He flies back to Newark with the Yakuza assassins on his tail. The Yakuza themselves seem to be gripped by some sort of power struggle centred around its top man in Newark, Takahashi, who has been organising the operation for Pharmakom while grieving the recent loss of his only daughter.

Johnny contacts Ralfi and what he hears doesn't encourage him. Ralfi sends Johnny to meet the only people who can extract the data from his head.

Meanwhile, Ralfi is visited at his nightclub by Jane, an artificially enhanced bodyguard looking for work. Her surgeon, Spider, is concerned about the state of her nervous system following his extensive modification work which has made her the fastest bodyguard in town, but has left her with NAS - the Black Shakes. Ralfi isn't interested in hiring Jane because of her condition.

Johnny arrives in the wreckage in of inner city Newark, watched by J-Bone and other members of the LoTek tribe. Johnny is met by a mysterious figure who beckons him into a near derelict building. Inside, Johnny comes face to face with Pharmakom ninjas that tried to kill him in Beijing. Johnny fights his way out and bumps into J-Bone, who runs the LoTek headquarters, Heaven, from its perch high on a derelict bridge, who helps to save him from one of the hired killers.

Johnny tracks down Ralfi and accuses him of setting him up. But Johnny is jumped by one of Ralfi's bodyguards and when he wakes up, he is strapped to an operating table and being handed over to a Pharmakom assassin / surgeon, Shinji, who doesn't really care if he survives the extraction procedure. Luckily for him, he has been followed by Jane, still looking to get back at Ralfi for rejecting her. She comes to Johnny's rescue and he offers to pay her $50,000 if she helps him get away. Jane quickly and efficiently takes out Ralfi's bodyguards and sundry ninjas and they get away, leaving Ralfi to be eviscerated by a vengeful Shinji and his laser whip.

Johnny and Jane flee, pursued by Shinji and Ralfi's surviving bodyguard. They in turn are cornered by LoTek fighters who have taken the fugitives in. The LoTeks let their prisoners go and Johnny and Jane take to the ruins of the subway system. Jane refuses to leave Johnny until she's paid her money and he fills her in on what has happened so far. Johnny's synaptic seepage is getting worse and he suffers a seizure in the tunnel.

Takahashi is watching a video of his daughter when he is visited by a spectral female avatar from the Internet who claims to have been Pharmakom and tells Takahashi that what Johnny is carrying could give him a new purpose in life. She cautions that "they're listening... they're everywhere" then vanishes.

In the tunnel, Johnny comes to, but his hand has locked in a spasm. Jane tells him that she hung out with the LoTeks when she was younger and Johnny tells her about his lost childhood memories. Their relationship is spiky and combatative, but Jane agrees to help Johnny find the computer access he needs.

Johnny gets online using virtual reality and browses the teeming Internet looking for clues as to what's really going on. He contacts the hotel in Beijing where he met the scientists and begins to track down the fax transmission, following it to a copy shop in Newark. But Pharmakom agents are tracing Johnny's online activity and the assassins are closing in.

Johnny finds out that the the fax was destined for a Dr Allcome, but there's no other information available. He contacts Strike, a hacker who runs a bulletin board who owes him a favour. Strike tells him that his head is full of Pharmakom data and that they are who has set the Yakuza on his tail. Their conversation is interrupted by a virus unleashed by the Yakuza. Just before he is pulled out of cyberspace by Jane, Johnny is visited by the ghostly female presence who warns him that "they're coming."

Takahashi is furious that Shinji has again failed to capture Johnny and contacts the Church of the Retransfiguration where the freelance assassin Street Preacher is hired to track down Johnny and bring back his head.

Johnny hacks Pharmakom's shielded lines and tells their agent that all he wants is their data out of his head and arranges to meet with them, much to Jane's dismay. But before Johnny can get to the meeting, Jane is struck down by a bad case of the Black Shakes. Johnny reluctantly takes her to Spider who Jane suggests may be able to help both of them.

Spider tends to Jane's illness, controlling her seizures. He tells Johnny that NAS is caused by "information overload," a by product of a technological age. Back in Heaven, the LoTeks monitor Street Preachers progress and even J-Bone won't mess with him - he's more machine than man and totally crazy, willing to kill anyone who gets in his way.

Meanwhile, Takahashi has been doing some research on the mysterious avatar that confronted him from across cyberspace. His secretary tells him that the face matches that of Anna Kalmann, the founder of Pharmakom - but she died in 2015. Her personality was "imprinted" on the company's neural nets and now has Swiss citizenship as an artificial intelligence.

Back at Spider's den, Johnny tries to contact Pharmakom and briefly sees Anna Kalmann before being confronted by Spider. Johnny wants him to help him remove the implant from his head.

Street Preacher continues to track down Johnny, torturing a cleaner who is mopping up the mess left by Jane's fight with Ralfi's bodyguards. He wants to know who Jane is and proves very persuasive, setting Street Preacher on the trail of Spider.

Meanwhile, Spider - former legit doctor turned outlaw - is trying to help Johnny. Jane recovers from her seizure and Spider tells her that he might be able to download the data. Johnny asks him if he's heard of Dr Allcome and Spider promises to get Johnny to the people he needs to see. He drives them of to a meeting, running down Street Preacher along the way.

Spider takes them to a run-down but teeming public hospital where medics fight a losing battle against NAS, hampered by the extortionate prices charged by Pharmakom for their drugs. Spider tells Johnny and Jane that Dr Allcome is a code word used by medics in times of emergency (as in "doctors all come to ward..."). Spider represents the NAS underground, an organisation of black medics trying to find a cure for the disease.

Spider plugs Johnny into a monitor and starts trying to break Johnny's encryption codes. But he has no luck and tells Johnny that he's going to have to dig the implant out. He also tells him that he's carrying Pharmakom's top secret R&D data on their cure for NAS. Spider wants to try to recover the data and prevent it from being monopolised by Phamakom.

Street Preacher arrives and attacks Johnny. Jane defends him and Spider holds him off while they make their escape. Spider yells at her to get Johnny to see someone named Jones and, after they have gone, Street Preacher tortures Spider, trying to find out who this Jones is.

Johnny again contacts Pharmakom and sets up a meeting, unaware that he is actually talking to a disguised Takahashi. The Yakuza is again visited by Kalmann who tries to tell him what Johnny is carrying, but he cuts her off.

Johnny arrives at the meeting on the bridge below Heaven. While they wait, jane tells him that Jones was in the navy during the war and that he has had a lot of implants wired into his system. Johnny tries to attract the attention of the LoTeks, but one of them accidentally drops a flaming car on them, part of Heaven's low tech defence system. Johnny and Jane are able to dodge the attack. J-Bone comes down and takes Johnny and Jane up into Heaven, but en route, Johnny has another attack as more of the stored data leaks out into his brain. Takahashi, meanwhile, leaves his headquarters and prepares to meet Shinji at the bridge for their final attempt to capture Johnny.

Back in Heaven, Johnny has the briefest of glimpses of a childhood memory, but he can't hold on to it. J-Bone interrupts a romantic moment between Johnny and Jane to take them to meet Jones. Along the way, he shows them their communications centre from where the LoTeks orchestrate their campaign against the corporations.

Johnny is appalled when he meets Jones - an enhanced dolphin that used infra sound to access software from enemy submarines during the war. Jones has a rudimentary intelligence and protects himself with a sort of sonic weapon.

Despite Johnny's initial reluctance, he agrees to wire himself up to Jones' interface and let the dolphin try to access his implant. Meanwhile, Pharmakom's hired army of ninja assassins have reached the bridge and are preparing to storm Heaven.

Jones begins hacking Johnny's implants as the LoTeks set up their broadband transmitters preparing to transmit the data in Johnny's head across the whole world. The ninjas enter Heaven as Johnny is sucked into a strange cyberworld defined by the data in his implant.

The attacking ninjas interrupt the procedure, leaving Johnny with only one option - he has to hack his own brain, routing whatever he finds through Jones for interpretation. As the battle for Heaven rages, Johnny is confronted by Takahashi and Jane flees for cover. Takahashi is about to kill Johnny when the image of Kalmann appears on the LoTek monitors and tells him what is in Johnny's head. Takahashi's daughter died from NAS, despite Pharmakom having had the cure some eight months previously.

The power struggle in the Yakuza is resolved when Shinji kills Takahashi. Jane saves Johnny from being killed by Shinji and his ninjas. A running battle ensues until Johnny and Shinji fall through the fragile floors of Heaven. They end up dangling from the wreckage until Johnny manages to use Shinji's laser whip against him, sending him falling to his death.

Street Preacher attacks Jane as Heaven begins to explode. Johnny finds Takahashi still barely alive. The Yakuza gives Johnny part of the missing part of the access code, allowing him to free the data in his implant. Johnny finds Street Preacher torturing Jane and tries to help her. But the Preacher is too strong for him and all looks lost for Johnny until Jane manages to reposition Jones' sonic weapon, allowing the dolphin to destroy the assassin.

The battle won, Johnny is hooked back up to Jones and he receives a final visit from Kalmann whose personality is being erased from Pharmakom's mainframes. Johnny goes back into cyberspace to do battle with the virus programs placed in his implant to protect Pharmakom's data.

Johnny enters the virtual reality of his implant as the images are broadcast around the world from Heaven's array of transmitters. Johnny's avatar does battle with the Pharmakom viruses, looping the valuable data through Jones' implants where it is decoded and broadcast to a waiting world. With the implant now empty, Johnny finds himself flooded with images from his lost childhood. Back in the real world, Johnny and Jane are reunited and they join J-Bone to watch the Pharmakom building burning in the distance.
KEVIN LYONS

 


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