I could say I only like this movie ‘ironically,’ or that I’d prefer a truer, more quality adaptation of the excellent short story. But I’d be lying, and all you’d have to do is say: “Maybe it’s not just about you anymore,” to which I’d be obligated to recite from memory the Internet-famous ‘Room Service’ rant, as delivered with gusto by a young Keanu Reeves.
The marriage of William Gibson 80s tech and attitude to 90s film to Keanu Reeves to bad writing and direction creates a wholly unique experience that could never be and will never be replicated. It is so special, so precious, and so perfect as a Wicker Man-esque flim-flam, but with actually interesting content.
That’s the difference. It’s not just funny — it is — it’s also Gibson-cool. Sure, Molly Millions is noticeably absent, but the tech is still there, although mono-filament wire was better in the first Appleseed movie than here, as an orange laser.
We have yakuza assassins, cyborg dolphins, killer preachers, Luddite cultists, and streetwise Johnny, who can carry 80 gigs in his head! Watching all of these things, and Henry Rollins, interact and shape each other is an exercise in hallucinatory celluloid without the high pretensions of Jodorowsky or Lynch. Not that it’s dreamlike, but it’s operating on a plane so far above what we’re used to.
Much the same way that Leone westerns feature characters larger-than-life, we might consider this roster smaller-than-life, where Johnny is blissfully uncharismatic and Jane is so pitiable a replacement for Molly — Ice-T is a technology-averse terrorist, Henry Rollins is a scientist, and Dolph Lundgren is, as some have dubbed, Terminator Jesus.
It’s an artifact of another time, of a period obsessed with predicting the future just before the future hit and looked a lot more like iPhones and Starbucks than Japan and floppy discs. Just as it would be impossible to predict that Keanu Reeves would go on to star in the greatest cyberpunk film ever created, who knew that combining all of those things listed above would style-bite on Gibson’s hopped-up dreams of punk Blade Runner but not actually achieve cool?
Doesn’t matter. Cool is overrated. Cool’s got parents and stuff.
But somehow… it’s still kinda cool.