B-movies are sometimes redeemed by astonishing casts, and Johnny Mnemonic is a great example; Dolph Lundgren appears as a psychotic Christian killer, probably the weakest role in the film as he overeggs it horribly; Dina Meyer, who has sadly never been A-list despite having been in Starship Troopers and numerous Saw films; Takeshi Kitano, whose acting credits fill entire websites devoted to his skill, looks and genius; Henry Rollins, a guy who just keeps getting work despite obvious flaws; Denis Akiyama, who looks like British comedian Michael Mackintyre; and how Barbara Sukowa ended up within this lot is anybody’s guess.
What's certain is that Sukowa has a face and voice that is suitably otherworldly, and allows her to appear as some kind of cyber steam-punk angel, in the film’s rather crap vision of how the internet is going to look in the future. What Johnny Mnemonic does like to show is how the internet has taken over humanity (yes) and spawned its own deadly disease, Nerve Attenuation Syndrome, which leaves people lying shaking, with no hope of ever getting better.
Sukowa’s appearance is strange; she is perfect for the cyberspace version of herself, but her actual one second long real-life appearance, shot from knee level is meant as nothing more than suggestive.
You’d think that Udo Kier could have a splendid career playing baddies after seeing him in Johnny Mnemonic. And there have been lots but this was a very busy period for Udo Kier and around the time of Barb Wire and Breaking the Waves. He knew Kean Reeves of old from My Own Private Idaho; he has succeeded as an actor, and he must have tremendous fun; he also did Ace Ventura: Pet Detective at this time also. But Barbara Sukowa did not seem to travel quite so well.
It could simply be down to her choice of movie. She was chosen by Michael Cimino for the awful, The Sicilian for example, on the strength of her good looks, but it seems that other than this, the USA hasn’t been that sure what to do with Sukowa in its films. There is also the fact that Sukowa is much more interested in higher forms of art and acting, and so likely her attention hasn’t been 100% on breaking into Hollywood.
Still, every actor has the right to appear in something very silly, and to have good fun doing so; and Johnny Mnemonic is certainly one of the silliest films out there; never particularly dull, but always preposterous and far-fetched, and sadly not dramatically satisfying when it finally ends.