Written and Directed by Richard Stanley
September 14, 1990 (US) / October 5, 1990 (UK)
A piece of junk found in the post-apocalyptic apocalyptic wastes turns out to be a dangerous military robot that awakens and threatens everyone in a slum.
Hardware is most definitely on the lower budget side. The shots are tight and a lot is done by director Richard Stanley with colored filters and smoke and weird lighting. But it works. It is just enough to let you know that this is a crappy future with humanity barely hanging on. At least on Planet Earth. There are mentions of space travel of some type but how extensive it is for humanity is not made clear.
The villainous machine at the center of everything is a M.A.R.K. 13 military robot. In the context of the film the name may refer to Mark 13:20 which in some versions contains the words “No flesh shall be spared.” The world has a population problem, and this is an idea that lingers in the background of the film It is implied that this self-repairing robot may even be the government’s solution since one character remarks it kills indiscriminately. Whether or not that is true is left at the imagination of the viewer.
The design of the M.A.R.K. 13 is not bad. It is your usual scary robot (and includes drug injecting “fangs”). It is big and threatening and even has a skull like head for good measure. Much of what is accomplished with the robot is done with puppetry (I guess you could call it) and a guy wearing costume pieces in order to move hands. The stiff motions that are clearly machine are in sharp contrast to how the individual wearing the gloves moves.
As is often the case in these Terminator inspired knock offs, they kill the assorted victims in the most gruesome way possible. The M.A.R.K. 13 has drills and saws that it uses to hack up people. I find it a little laughable that these lethal movie robots use gore making and time-consuming killing methods to take out the victim in the messiest way possible.
Dylan McDermott stars as Mo Baxter who is a tough former soldier eking out an existence. Mo is involved with reclusive Jill (Stacey Travis) who is some kind of metal working artist. Mo has a friend named Shades (John Lynch) who is a bit of a stoner and watches over Stacey. An honorable mention goes out to William Hootkins as Lincoln Wineberg, Jr. This character was a slimy and skin crawling creepy pervert that said and did things that were perhaps some of the nastiest things I have ever seen put to film.
We have some interesting cameos as well in Hardware. Iggy Pop voices DJ Angry Bob and Lemmy Kilmister of British rock band Motörhead fame appears as a water taxi driver. That is just some weird yet interesting casting.
What makes this film stand out among other science fiction films of the day is that the female lead is in the end responsible for her own salvation. The predominately male cast gets mostly slaughtered by our Terminator wannabe. Through a bit of luck and using what knowledge she has does she survive the film. She is not the screaming damsel that gets saved by the male hero. In fact, I am pretty sure Mo dies thinking she is dead, and he failed.
Richard Stanley wanted this film to have themes of fascism and accepting of authoritarianism and it largely does through some surprisingly dialogue heavy scenes considering the type of film this is. Stacey and Mo are our debaters in this film and discuss the current state of things in their world.
There is just something charming and entertaining about this movie. It has a lot more pluses than minuses. It revels in the weirdness and as stated earlier it has some interesting cameos. I could pick individual things that do not quite work but somehow this movie is one of those things that when all the parts come together it makes something much better than the individual pieces. Separately some of the acting and choices by the director and issues with the production value are all bad but together they create something entertaining.
Hardware has a certain charm and trashy likability. It is most certainly a guilty pleasure of mine. Richard Stanley put together something intriguing here that perhaps with a bigger budget could have been something truly spectacular. There is plenty to work with and some substance beneath the cheap. I am not a fan of remakes but a better budgeted remake that adheres closely to the script could be great.
Hardware is an enjoyable film but is one of those things that should only be watched if you like something that you will regret watching but want to watch again. I give this an if you want but I strongly encourage you to want.