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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 20.63%
Average: 0%
Pretty Bad: 15.87%
Total Crap: 7.94%

3 reviews, 45 user ratings

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by brianorndorf

"A wibberly-wobberly good time"
4 stars

When “Hardware” slipped into theater in the autumn of 1990, I was much too young to see it, unable to properly grasp its European cinema homages and suffocating future shock textures. I simply hated the thing, tremendously disturbed by its brutal imagery and salacious appetite for perversity. Fortunately, I wasn’t unable to flush the feature out of my system. With time and maturity, I grew to value Richard Stanley’s feature as a fierce, enthralling depiction of utter ecological and social anguish. “Hardware” slowly became a personal favorite, and nearly 20 years later, it’s finally arrived on a format that permits clarity to the fine details and piercing discomfort Stanley busted his hump to produce.

Returning from military duty in the irradiated wastelands, Mo (Dylan McDermott) has come to visit his estranged lover, Jill (Stacey Travis), in her apartment, smack dab in the middle of an overpopulated, diseased city. Bargaining with a whacked-out salvage hunter for a bag of robot fragments, Mo offers Jill the findings, which she uses for an elaborate abstract art project. Settling in and reconnecting after a long absence, the party for Jill and Mo is cut short when the robot awakens, reassembles itself with nearby parts, and resumes its original purpose as a government-sponsored population control droid. As the “M.A.R.K. 13” tears through the apartment exterminating anything in its path, Mo and Jill attempt to survive the night, searching for a weakness that could stop the metal predator.

Stretching his limited budget to extraordinary lengths, “Hardware” is a miniature horror picture that dreams pretty big. Taking the viewer into a grim future world of blood-red skies, radiation poisoning, and population control efforts, Richard Stanley doesn’t spare a drop of discomfort, imagining a planet plummeting straight to Hell, with the survivors living in a humid, lawless world of perpetual self-medication and surveillance. It’s a frightful noose-around-the-neck premise, and in lesser hands the material would’ve surely crumbled into clumps of shock value and half-assed gloom. However, Stanley captures the catastrophe with youthful abandon, constructing an art-house, sci-fi gorefest that welcomes all this dystopian hopelessness with cigarette-stained jazz hands, stylishly making depravity his pet.

While the temptation to kitten the material must’ve been there for the taking, Stanley avoids a crude, B-movie routine for “Hardware.” It’s a glossy, moody picture, utilizing Simon Boswell’s wonderfully despondent synth-n-slide-guitar score to create an atmosphere of apocalyptic misery that delights the filmmaker, further accented by the ingenuous usage of the grinding song “The Order of Death,” Public Image Ltd.’s timeless valentine to the end of the world. Stanley creates the sensation of a plastic bag slowly pulled taught over the face, fashioning a disturbing world where a killer robot is perhaps the last thing to be feared. It’s an overpowering, toxic community of perverts (William Hootkins induces nightmares and post-screening showers as Jill’s greasy, voyeur neighbor), opportunists, media ubiquity, and cold-blooded murder.

The miracle here is how “Hardware” never buckles under the weight of its humorless, demented frame of mind. Stanley, only 23 years of age at the time of production, shows a sure directorial hand, merging the genre’s bottom-shelf requirements for vicious violence and terror with fascinating aspects of social commentary and biblical awakening that add layers to what normally would be a customary sci-fi shocker. Stanley’s thinking with “Hardware,” not just responding, and while the abrasive results don’t always penetrate like they should (Mo’s confrontation with the machine lacks the concise finality the rest of the feature enjoys), the hellacious strength of the picture is quite amazing at times.

I wouldn’t brand “Hardware” a classic, but it burns with a caustic personality, elevating itself miles away from the robot rampage routine. Richard Stanley infuses the picture with stunning threat and a beguiling industrial personality, molding schlock into a potent futuristic warning shot. Nearly two decades later, “Hardware” retains its merciless poise, and while the filmmaker has slipped into obscurity, his finest work still lunges for the throat.

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originally posted: 10/31/09 01:31:51
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User Comments

10/04/14 cykodrone Was released 24 years ago, are we not headed there? 4 stars
12/20/10 David W. The grittiest, realest, post apocalyptic cinema and score to be put on film! 5 stars
3/22/10 Zzzt Slow, utterly predictable, amazingly dull, cheesy 2 stars
12/01/09 action movie fan good story and special effects but way too arty, with sleepwalking persformances-flopped 2 stars
10/31/09 Just Some Guy Everyone is mad from grief, unlike the hypercalm survivors of other end-world films—see it! 4 stars
10/15/09 porfle After a long overdue rewatch, I love this movie. 4 stars
10/02/06 Pritchett Came highly recommended. I thought it sucked ass. 'Hope DUST DEVIL is better. 1 stars
7/12/06 ian afford cack 1 stars
4/04/05 Ric All style and no substance, with zero intrigue or suspense. 1 stars
2/27/05 mike one of the best 5 stars
2/03/05 Marine Dude Awesome shower scene with a pup Dylan McDermott naked ..... that part alone is worth it 5 stars
7/31/04 Lincoln F. Stern This movie is a "cult classic", I really liked this movie! Where can I buy it? 5 stars
7/30/04 Miffo2000 This is even better than Lord of the Rings 5 stars
6/27/04 Eddie Seen it once, and would love to watch it again with the Lights OFF!! 5 stars
4/12/04 Nikolai Stars&Stripes droid makeover herasy to Bush's 'Kinder, gentler' peace loving democracy 5 stars
11/11/03 MacMillan It is our future, I am afraid. 5 stars
10/19/03 Sugarfoot Well worth renting! 4 stars
3/22/03 Jack Sommersby Initially interesting but lamely followed through upon. 2 stars
2/10/03 Xupmapisse Great movie... excelent soundtrack 5 stars
1/26/03 Lorrie Gorey best Sci Fi of the 90's, period 5 stars
1/06/03 S23 Great movie, one of my favorites. Excellent soundtrack. 5 stars
6/03/02 Big Crull Easily on my 10 best movies ever list 5 stars
4/26/02 Charles Tatum Also check out Stanley's Dust Devil 4 stars
4/12/02 Shadowy Grave Scary when I was younger. Liked the futuristic imagery and music. Too much focus on sex. 4 stars
4/05/02 Gehin Carl McCoy... drool 5 stars
3/02/02 Alan Smithee Very gory and very silly, but in a cool way. 4 stars
2/05/02 Stephen C This is a stylish and highly underrated film. Its true meaning is subtle and overlooked. 5 stars
1/24/02 Jake Intense movie with great action. Jill flying through glass. Violent but not overly sick. 5 stars
1/13/02 John Great piece of B cinema. Great sound and editing effects. 9/10 5 stars
12/24/01 HOJU The '5 Stars - Awesome' rating would not do it justice! 5 stars
10/14/01 John Dziurlaj A movie that will become a classic for all time.... 5 stars
9/13/01 eva wonderful film 5 stars
6/13/01 blap Brilliant — a Terminator remake with great soundtrack 5 stars
6/12/01 Gene Genius filmmaking. Anyone who picks at this movie for being cliched is missing the point. 5 stars
3/17/01 Ratatosk My favorite movie. It's got Ministry on the audio and GWAR on the video. 5 stars
3/14/01 Sthenno Amazingly gripping film with a great atmosphere,cast,acting and images of violence. 5 stars
11/08/00 Anders This is one of the best sci-fi movies ever made, Richard Stanley is a genius. 5 stars
11/03/00 Mark and Bob This film was the biggest bag o wank we've ever seen !! 1 stars
8/27/00 Steve Zeldow One of the 5 best Sci-Fi movies ever 5 stars
6/20/00 C.B. Yeah--what Max said! 5 stars
3/15/00 Steve THE worst fucking movie of all time! 1 stars
1/03/00 Max Sparber Hardware is exactly what a silly, comic-book inspired scie-fi/action/horror film should be. 5 stars
1/02/00 Nugget I just saw this movie-(kicks ass)- but if someone else did it, it would be alot better 5 stars
11/04/99 V. Stanley is vastly underrated. 5 stars
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  02-Jul-1990 (R)

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  02-Feb-1991 (R)

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