Hardware – 1990 – U.K. – Severin Films
(a.k.a. “Robocrap!”, VHS title: “Zalman King’s Terminator 2″, Canadian title: “The Red Shoe Diary Gang Meets the Killer Robot From Apartment 9!”)
Bleccch! This movie was SO much better at age 14, but so was sweet Cindy Jameson. Y’see, Cindy was the sexual center of my 14-year-old universe, with her lithe as a cat teenage frame and those perky… teeth. Pimple popping was my unfortunate precedent at the time and it kind of precluded me (at least I figured) from getting balls deep in Cindy Jameson and screaming out the first 7,541 digits of pi at the top of our lungs. I walked around with that regret for about 10 years until I was reacquainted with Cindy, who looked like she had eaten a refrigerator and been stung about the head and neck by a rogue squadron of jellyfish. That’s kind of what it felt like when I revisited this film after 19 years – epiphany by gut-punch.
Proving that the long-play music-video-cum-feature idiocy of Rob Zombie doesn’t break any new ground, Richard Stanley served us this pretentious mess while Zombie was still in ragged short pants. A cheapjack and clumsy jumble of bad ideas and redundant imagery shown at breakneck speed (to better disorient us?), Hardware is perhaps the most mis-remembered and overrated bag of Limburger cheese to come out of the execrable 1990s. If awkward transitions, poser-perfection sex scenes (amidst properly billowing curtains), sterile sets and Dylan McDermott with post-apocalyptic hair frozen into perfection are your thang, you might glean some redeeming value here. For the rest, abandon all hope when entering here.
Itinerant wanderer of the post-apocalyptic irradiated zone, Moses (McDermott) returns to his neglected “artiste” girlfriend, Jill, bearing a compensatory Christmas gift as apology for his absence. Said gift is in fact the skull of the Mach-13, an artificially intelligent robot designed to sterilize the human genetic pool from the possibility of mutant procreation (rush an order of these to Florida, ASAP!). Following said sex scene, the Mach-13 springs to life, incorporating Jill’s industrial art pieces into its being and becoming Short-Circuit with a proverbial hair across its ass for genetically deficient human beings. After Jill’s deranged neighbor/stalker drops by for some perverse pillow talk followed by attempted rape, the robot leaps into action by rending the fat slob limb from limb for his lecherous troubles. Moses returns home (to part Jill’s Red Sea?) and the couple square off against dastardly robot in a fight for survival and the (apparently, God-given) right to produce mutant offspring.
Eugenics by torture and terror? I love it! Tornado dodging trailer parks across the country are in dire need of Mach-13’s but, alas, that particular future is still a bullet-for-democracy away. So, beyond a good idea, what do we really have with Hardware? A cheesecake attempt at sci-fi-western burdened by a succession of needless imagery hyper-edited together for the A.D.D. crowd that leaves the viewer completely out of the loop on what the fuck is going on. Dylan McDermott strutting around the set like a rutting stag with his too-cool-for-school attitude and perfectly manicured visage – tailor made for TV soaps and courtroom dramas. A clunky robotic self-creation set-piece which progresses into the all-too-frequent “robo-view” which is at best disorienting, at worst a complete failure. The ultimate failure, however, is that Richard Stanley’s camera never bothers to afford the Mach-13 killer robot any sort of presence, most likely because it looks remarkably like a hunchback crossed with a tin can.
Cliched characters, inept attempts at humor, terrible pacing, worse music, and all of it overstaged, overlit and almost entirely shot in close-ups and tight shots rendering the entire film a two-dimensional mess of pomposity. The sexually deviant and voyeuristic neighbor plays out like a psychotic and masculine Dr. Ruth, which is funny as hell, but the rest of this gobbledygook is tiresome and amateurish through and through. It is perplexing that director Stanley would bring us the exact opposite with his brilliant film Dust Devil, a mere two years later chronologically, but a million light years ahead stylistically. When all is said and done I’d opt for chubby-butted Cindy Jameson, plying me with Viagra on a sand-strewn beach in Florida over this “epic” bore, which is better left forgotten.
Jason’s Grade: D+