Hardware (1990) Revisited – It activates, it exhilarates… it exterminates.

Posted: July 7, 2012 in FILM REVIEWS/COMMENTS
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After revisiting Dust Devil I thought I’d take another look at visionary Richard Stanley’s 1990 offering Hardware…


Parts of a faulty military robot, Mark 13 are found in the post- nuclear desert wasteland by an old-timer, nomadic scavenger. The Nomad sells the head to to a cyborg who in-turn gives it as a gift to his girlfriend who soon finds that the robot is far from dead.

Director Richard Stanley offers a plausible grim, post-apocalyptic, sci-fi fantasy, which borrows a few visual elements from Blade Runner and Terminator. Hardly surprising it’s also reminiscent of Judge Dredd’s Cursed Earth as Hardware was inspired by comic-book ‘2000 AD’.

Robot Mark 13; once it re-makes itself sometimes looks menacing enough with a cool factor but other times it comes across less ominous. Moses played Dylan McDermott hams it at times in the drug induced scene but play it straight for the most part. There’s an unevenness to some of Michael Fallon’s and Stanley’s dialogue. Moses’ friend Shades (the usual solid John Lynch) is at times like “Stiles” from Teen Wolf (1985) rather than Cyberpunk. Stunning Stacey Travis gives a good performance but sadly she has to don a Rambo-like bandanna in the closing segments. Lengthy sex scenes aside there are few nice touches in Stanley’s screenplay, Motorhead’s Lemmy as a river taxi driver who introduces his own ‘Ace of Spades, Iggy Pop as a DJ voice-over and there’s Mark 13 killer injections and a severed hand. The desert setting bookends the film, the city scenes ooze atmosphere, you can taste the sand and dirt. However, these scene’s are few and far between with the majority of the film confined to one one well dressed flat set.

The crude stalker sub-plot is vulgar yet adds to the story elements of control, hopelessness and the faults of humans.The social control, DIY culture, new experimental drugs reflects the time it was made. That said, Hardware offers sophistication, like Mark 13 technology to get its point across. With a mix of elements it pulls the story in different directions but remains focus on humanity versus technology which with Stanley visuals gives it an art house, music video feel, ambiguous yet focal possibly due to Steve MacManus and Kevin O’Neill’s narrative.

Given it’s modest budget and producers, Hardware in retrospect may have benefited from a heavier edit, possibly with the re jigging of the creepy, voyeur Linc (William Hootkins) element concluding earlier with the discovery of what the Mark 13 is (by the reliable actor Mark Northover) inserted later. With a mixed bag of special effects and sound design the ending annoyingly has endings on endings like many an 80’s thriller.

Stanley’s direction has bursts of energy and he skilfully creates an apocalyptic world as it strives to deliver on its great concept.

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Comments
  1. Squelsch says:

    I was also pretty upset with this movie. I love a good post-apocalypse flick, but this one… this one was just dumb. I would have loved to see the Mk. 13 escape the apartment and cause some mayhem. Hell, it’s a futuristic military robot. You think it would be a little more cunning. Maybe a little more savage too.

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