2010
01.04

Review: Hardware

JasonReviewsHardware – 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+

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4 comments so far

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  1. When you said a few weeks ago that you’d acquired a copy of this movie and had such former flirtations with it, I wanted to tell you how much I virulently loathed it and almost couldn’t finish this dreck a couple of weeks before that. But, now that you’ve come around and opened a can of whoop-ass on it, allow me to agree on virtually every single point. It was everything I hated about the ’90s, and that’s a lot of stuff. A whole lot.

    But don’t worry. I’ll no doubt pull an old favorite from out of my nostalgia bag, all to find out way too late that it didn’t hold up in the slightest, and then deserve the mocking I’d get. Something in the ’80s teen sexploitation sub-genre, to be sure.

  2. I don’t know whether it’s the nostalgia I associate with the film (I saw it twice in a theater.), but I really do like it. Yes, it’s budgetary limitations may seem all the more glaring today, but the film remains, imo, a very enjoyable one.

    Also, maybe worth mentioning is the overall quality job Severin on the packaging. Definitely one of the better dvd release of 2009.

  3. Yeah, Robert, I went out on a limb with this review seeing the enduring (and somewhat rabid) fanbase this picture has accrued in its 20 years, but I gotta call ‘em as I see ‘em, even if it means backpedaling a bit and alienating some terror-fiends along the way. I am glad that you enjoy this film (and he is correct, the DVD/Blu-Ray release is splendidly put together) and seeing that we share a common love for 99% of the genre, I hope you will forgive my occasional venom towards the few that we happen to disagree on. After reading numerous pages of pundits and fans gushing over this film, I felt that the coin was in need of some urgent flipping, and who better to flip off the world than TT?

    Dust Devil is pretty fantastic though, eh?

  4. I’ve yet to see Dust Devil. It’s one of those films that sits, perpetually, on my “to do” list of dvd acquisitions.

    I think part of Hardware’s appeal is that it was out of circulation for so long, do to all of those legal entanglements over it’s ownership. Up until now, if you wanted to see the film, you had to make do w/ that sub-par German boot.

    While the film isn’t necessarily everyone’s cup of tea, I still think that for a directorial debut, Hardware is not a bad film. Another thing that can besaid in it’s favor, is that it doesn’t have any CGI in it.

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