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I think Hardware proves that sometimes the only real reason you want a thing is that you can’t have it. Being out of print for so long gave it a kind of mystique that, when mixed with enough nostalgia, told you that it must have been interesting when you saw it way back when. I’ve been curious about director Richard Stanley’s Dust Devil for much the same reason and now I am dubious at best.

Hardware starts its premise off in quite the unique way. I’ll give it that. The killer robot is discovered by Dylan McDermott’s generic post-apocalyptic mercenary in the contaminated desert of every post-apocalyptic picture since the atom bomb first tested. But he gives it to his girlfriend, Stacy Travis, to use in a found-art-sculpture, so he gets some style points for that. Bonus for the paint job she gives it. Everything else about their relationship is too drab for me to even want to cover it. She lives in an artist’s loft, the sort with lots of nifty stuff around for killer robots to hide in, fortunately for the killer robot her old man just dragged home.

See, the thing is a faulty prototype, a military killing machine that comes equipped with, rather than guns or flamethrowers or poison gas dispensers, a huge blunt drill and poison tipped needles. They don’t even shoot; it has to stab you. That’s not even why it failed to garner mass production; the reason the military dropped it is that it’s vulnerable to moisture. I’m going to spoil the end for you to illustrate how stupid that idea is. To actually defeat the thing once it goes haywire, Travis tricks it into following her into the shower. Her crash through the glass shower door, by the way, is her second slow motion fall through breaking glass seen in the film.

This isn’t the only trick the director pulled out of his 1980s-music-video bag either. Smoke fills Travis’ loft from the moment the thing comes to life. I mean Whitesnake levels of smoke. Only red-filtered lights still function. The movie spends an excruciating amount of time demonstrating that the war machine hunts by infrared vision, which makes for a neat hiding place moment that really doesn’t go anywhere. A creepy stalker shows up at one point for the same purpose that one would show up in a Friday the 13th sequel- meat to the slaughter. A friend of McDermott’s shows up tripping balls for no purpose I could discern. He didn’t even have the decency to be eviscerated.

It takes about half the film before the barely explained robot comes to life, leaving little to fill that time beforehand. Some of it is in the future world, stolen mostly from Blade Runner. Everything is neon and it’s night all the time. Travis’ character does very little of note before running for her life, and all of it dull. A background plot, about people volunteering to be spayed and neutered due to overpopulation, pretends to give the story some depth and meaning but it’s all filler. Travis ties the robot into it but it’s meaningless for reasons I outlined as to why the thing was of no military use anyway. Yet another reason the prototype failed: it’s supposed to exterminate people even though it can be defeated by a garden hose.

That’s the end problem with the movie. It meanders around and tries to look like it’s doing something while it never does. It’s the cinematic equivalent of the guy with the clipboard, walking around trying to convince everyone he’s important. He’s not and neither is this. 2 stars

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6 Comments

  1. A whole 2 stars? After a review like that?

    • I didn’t care for what the director did but for the most part he did it well. So, I didn’t HATE it, I just had an easy time picking apart the mistakes. Its biggest crime was just boring me.

        • Rosie
        • Posted May 12, 2010 at 11:42 pm
        • Permalink

        Well, it was an entertaining review, so 4 1/2 stars on that.

  2. Thanks!

  3. I saw this movie at a multiplex with my best friend. And his grandmother. And her (likewise-grandmotherly) best friend.

    It was one of the great audience-to-content mismatches of our time.

    • Haha! That might make it more enjoyable, actually. Ah, the days when a movie like this was suitable for wide release.


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