The Ninjabot

Post-Nuke Review of HARDWARE (1990)

Posted on March 29, 2015 at 7:30 am by Dylan Reynolds

Hello!  From now and until Mad Max: Fury Road’s release in May I’m going to try and watch as many “Post Nuke flicks” as humanly possible.  And now- a trip to the 90s…


hardWith the recent release of the documentary “Lost Soul: The Doomed Journey of Richard Stanley’s Island of Dr. Moreau” it seems appropriate to revisit the British filmmakers brief but cult favorite filmography. Before getting shit canned from his own movie- ‘96s Kilmer/ Brando epic disaster ISLAND OF DR. MOREAU- Richard Stanley showed a lot of promise with what would prove be the highly influential post- apocalyptic neo-noir/ slasher movie mash-up HARDWARE.

Though ‘82s BLADE RUNNER is arguably the first “cyberpunk thriller” (a sub-genre in film most associated with the 90s) HARDWARE has the distinction of being released before many of the movies that came to define the sub genre- including THE MATRIX, STRANGE DAYS, HACKERS and JOHNNY MNEMONIC. This is especially evident in HADRWARE’s highly-filtered and “brooding” cinematography, the dystopian/ “grim ‘n gritty” aesthetic, and the Grunge rock/ industrial infused soundtrack.

Check out the music video to see what I’m talking about:

The movie begins in some unspecified future that has apparently been devastated by nuclear war and thus transformed the landscape into a barren wasteland. A “traveler” discovers the head of an android buried in the desert sand and later tries to hawk the item at a scrap yard.

hardware06There it is bought by Dylan McDermott who takes the robot head to his girlfriend Jill- a pot-smoking artist who makes sculptures of “found objects”. After a little hanky panky McDermott takes off- leaving Jill behind to smoke out and work on some more of her art.

During this time we discover that the robot head is in fact “alive” and slowly appropriates other objects around the room (including some power tools). The proverbial “shit hits the fan” as the robot chases Jill around the apartment in what plays out like a very claustrophobic and gory version of the first TERMINATOR flick (the last act anyway).


There’s a couple other characters and situations in play but for the most part that’s about it as far as the plot goes and yes, HARDWARE is more than a bit derivative of almost every major/ influential sci-fi flick that came in the decade leading up to its release (again, BLADE RUNNER and TERMINATOR come to mind as does ALIEN/ PREDATOR and all the various MAD MAX-type of flicks).


But what really elevates the film is the atmosphere- i.e. it’s style over substance. On one hand, it is obviously a low budget genre flick with the express intentions of filling up some space somewhere on a Blockbuster shelf. But within that framework it admirably achieves an arthouse level of visual panache.

And though it starts off slow with some uneven pacing throughout- you ultimately walk away feeling satisfied and when it’s all said and done HARDWARE stands as one of the stronger examples to come out of the 90s “direct to video” market.  And as a “cyberpunk thriller” it helped jump start an entire sub-genre of science fiction…. And that ain’t too shabby.

Be sure to check out my other Post-Nuke reviews.

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