Hardware (1990)


“Machines don’t understand sacrifice — neither do morons.”

The Scoop: 1990 R, directed by Richard Stanley and starring Dylan McDermott, Stacey Travis and Iggy Pop

Tagline: It activates it exhilarates… it exterminates

Summary Capsule: A girl deals with a creepy rapist and an assassin robot all in the span of a day

Justin’s rating: Just format Johnny Five there and let’s blow this joint!

Justin’s review: Hardware is an edgy scifi/horror film that bills itself as “the Terminator of the ’90s”, somewhat ignorant that Terminator 2, aka “the real Terminator of the ’90s,” was only a couple of years away.  Not to mention that Hardware’s claim lies only in the field of dreams where marketers frolic, as they assume that audiences will never take a chance on a movie that isn’t favorably compared to another, more well-known flick (aka “Die Hard on a [place/object]” syndrome).

Sure, Hardware is somewhat Terminator-ish – after all, it’s got a seemingly unstoppable killer robot who’s gunning for a lady with guts of steel.  But while Terminator had its cyborg sent back in time to assassinate the mother of the leader of the human resistance against the machines, Hardware is a flick where a guy just finds a broken killer robot and gives it to his girlfriend as a Christmas present (!), and is subsequently surprised that when it’s assembled and functioning, it doesn’t merely do his back taxes and play World of Warcraft.

It’s a coin’s toss whether you’ll like this film or not. It depends, I guess, on what you’re looking to get out of it.  Hardware has a great time constructing a dystopic-apocalyptic future where most of the earth is radioactive and the remaining inhabitants live inside dingy cities where an unseen “Big Brother” government controls their lives.  Everything’s grimy and deliciously retro-tech – more Alien and Star Wars and Blade Runner than all of the newer CGI vistas.

Even the villain, a self-repairing kill-bot named MARK 13 (named not because of its iteration, but for an obscure reference in the Bible), is all wires and gears and stabbity-things.  There’s a feast of morsels to be had, if one isn’t too particular about what else shares the plate.

I had heard great things about this film, and so I come away on the flip side of the coin – I really didn’t end up liking it too much.  Sure, the acting is sub-par (the lead lady cries so unconvincingly that I think she needs to take lessons from my infant son), and the action, horror and science fiction is presented more in random drabs than anything steady, but my main complaint is that whoever filmed this movie obviously did not want me to see a single thing in it.  It’s a visually dark movie, filmed so because I guess nobody in the future can afford sunglasses or can be bothered to open their shades.  As a result, my eyes felt strained an hour in just trying to make out what was happening.

Plus, there are pretty severe pacing issues.  The first half of the movie is so slow and meandering as to lose entire tour groups of watchers, who now and forevermore wander the labyrinth of malicious cinema editors.  When you’ve only got 93 minutes to tell a story about a complex stabbing robot, you don’t dither around with a love scene and a part where a guy in a taxi cab boat makes you listen to metal rock.  You get straight to the kill-bot by minute two, or you’ve lost my attention.  This isn’t even to mention how one guy dies because he’s injected with a psychotropic poison that leads us into a completely unnecessary hallucination sequence that just goes on and on and on.

And as for the infamous assassination droid?  Dude, you couldn’t even LEAVE AN APARTMENT.  I don’t fear anything that has difficulties going for casual strolls around the neighborhood.

Bah.  I’m in a bad mood now.  Someone make me cookies, stat!

Co-ed showers: we truly have arrived in the future!


  • “And Iggy Pop as Angry Bob” – that made my day
  • Overweight little people make great shady black market dealers
  • It may be the post-apocalyptic future, but everyone’s lives are still run by computers
  • Soundtrack sounds a LOT like Firefly’s
  • Erm… aren’t you afraid of showering with a metal NES power glove?
  • People in the future have strobe lights in their bedrooms for romantic lighting
  • Okay, you could end this sex scene any time now… oh hey, Mr. Creepy Stalker-Killer-Pervert Man!
  • They have two hours of sex and THEN put all of their clothes on just to fall asleep? What kind of relationships did the filmmakers have?
  • “Lactoplasm” drinks
  • Something tries to kill you in your apartment and you don’t leave? Way to underreact, lady. And then serial killer dude shows up and she barely cares.
  • How long does it take for this drug to kill someone? Worst poison ever.
  • If I was one computer malfunction away from getting chopped in half by my apartment doors, I don’t think I’d live there. Just sayin’.
  • I’m guessing the filmmakers were heavy metal fans, because any opportunity to turn this film into a music video, it goes there. Plus, they have Iggy Pop as a radio DJ named Angry Bob, so the music angle isn’t exactly subtle.
  • Based on a story called “Shok” which appeared in the magazine 2000AD.
  • For his appearance as the cabbie, Lemmy was equipped with a bottle of Scotch and a genuine Magnum revolver. He emptied the bottle and drew the gun out from his shoulder holster. It slipped his hand and sank to the river. Divers were sent to recover it, but they were unsuccessful.
  • This film was originally given an X rating by the MPAA in America because of its graphic scenes of extreme violence. Significant cuts had to be made in these scenes in order to secure an R rating.

Groovy Quotes

Angry Bob: [on radio] Kill! Kill! Kill! Today’s death count is 578.

Shades: It’s my heart – it feels like an alligator.

Chief: Machines don’t understand sacrifice – neither do morons.

If You Liked This Movie, Try These:

  • Nemesis
  • Terminator
  • Circuitry Man


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