Seeing as how reclusive South African born filmmaker Richard Stanley is finally returning to the big screen with a segment in the horror anthology film "The Theatre Bizarre," why not bow to his debut feature...welcome to Forgotten Friday Flick! For those unaware, Stanley’s first film was a spectacular action/sci-fi/horror outing that had plenty of both style and substance. Targeted unfairly by the MPAA at the time for merely being released by the Weinstein Brothers helmed Miramax (which saw "The Cook, The Thief, His Wife & Her Lover" get the NC-17 as well!) company Millimeter Films, the cool of this post-apocalyptic gem still shined through to make it a hidden classic. We’re talking about the no flesh shall be spared 1990 flick..."Hardware."
It’s the 21st century and the world has become a decaying radioactive wasteland. Fighting and war is still ongoing, but luckily for Mo Baxter and his buddy Shades there’s a Christmas cease-fire and the two are heading home. On the way they hit the shop of a local scrap dealer and run into a mysterious zone tripper who is selling some robot parts he found abandoned in the local flats. After some haggling, Mo convinces the stranger to let him purchase it for his girlfriend Jill, who is a local welding artist. But this is no ordinary robot, it’s a M.A.R.K. -13 and soon the true nature of its use and existence becomes shockingly clear.
With it’s familiar tale of killer robots, a war torn world and a girl in peril, what makes "Hardware" so memorable? Right off the bat – the visual style. Bathed in dark colors and crumbling landscapes, Richard Stanley’s gift for cinematic flair is evident right from the first frame. And no matter what the setting – a long and sandy desert, a steamy shower, a technology run amok apartment - Stanley makes all his visuals stark and stunning. It is also aided well by fantastic music accompaniment – both in score and song. Complimented by both the soothing synthesized sounds of Simon Boswell and hardcore songs by the likes of Ministry and Public Image Ltd., it’s the perfect movie marriage of picture and sound.
But the cherry atop of the brilliance of "Hardware" lies in the performances – most notably the three leads. As ‘Hard Mo’, Shades and Jill, Dylan McDermott, John Lynch and especially the feisty and hot Stacey Travis make the world within Hardware come to life. McDermott, prior to 'The Practice', is the epitome of male machismo as a cocky and hardened military man (love that metal arm candy!), John Lynch provides an odd and unique character in the form of the Zen like Shades ("Everything is under control!") and Stacey Travis is both bold and beautiful as the sexy Jill. (The shower scene and bedroom tryst are hot as hell!) There are some creepy side characters (William Hootkins is literally dripping with gross!), notable cameos (Lemmy from Motorhead as a...boat driver?!) and rocking radio voices (Iggy Pop as Angry Bob – who didn't see that coming!), but this show simply belongs to its likeable leads – a sturdy tripod needs three legs only.
I always thought it was a shame that not only did Director Stanley go on to not make any more tasty features ("The Island of Dr. Moreau" was wrought with disaster!) his way, but also that McDermott distanced himself from the film. (He appears NOWHERE in the special features on the recent Blu-ray release of the film!) It’s by far the best work of his career and for Stanley marks a real feat for a debut flick. "Hardware" is an example of what a creative mind with a little fine music, muscle and moxie can do. As Jill says upon first gaze of the piece ridden robot, ‘It’s horrible...I love it...what is it?’ - "Hardware" is a five-star flick that defies category description.