Comfortable and Furious

Hardware (1990)

So, a film about a lethal machine that hunts people, made in the wake of Predator and Robocop. Does it elegantly meld the best of both worlds?

Let me put it this way: fuck no.  The film is set in the near radiation-drenched future where the Earth has been subjected to nuclear warfare, yet it remains overpopulated to the point where some evil corporation manufactures a robot with strong artificial intelligence that can repair itself and carries a ridiculous Swiss army knife armamentarium of lethal weapons so as to quickly reap through a crowd of individuals and leave a gory stain in its wake.

Sounds good, but the machine looks and acts retarded, it executes like old people fuck, and the style of direction is a deeply confused mélange of spare shots and overdone light effects, and the film telegraphs every kill so there is no surprise whatsoever. It rips off Robocop’s use of ultraviolence with none of its humanity and wit, Predator’s infrared scope, and Terminator’s unstoppable machine while lacking Arnold’s charisma.

Surely it tries to elevate the violence with grand themes.

Well, the hero is named Moses, the robot is a Mark 13 prototype in reference to the Bible passage “And no flesh shall be spared”, and the screenplay is awash in dim ideas that go nowhere. In the future, life has no meaning, everyone has mutations so birth defects are the rule rather than the exception, but still humanity exhibits the spirit of survival. But the filmmaker has no idea where to go with this apart from suggesting that we are all destined to die anyway, and the most we can do is sacrifice ourselves in a suicidal attempt to save those we love who will die anyway. Nietzsche for people who cannot actually read. There is a lot of other symbolism in there, but since the director can’t be bothered to understand it, why should I give a dizzy shit?

Well, let’s make an effort here. How is the chemistry between the leads?

Like two actors in a porn shoot that meet immediately before the camera rolls. He is a drifter who collects scrap metal for cash, or is a soldier, or both. Soldiers get a lot of free time to wander the deserts. His girlfriend is an artist, which in films like this means she spends her time making appallingly formless ‘art’. So, he brings home the head of a killer robot to Her, who paints it with the colors of the American flag, as if that by itself speaks volumes. No, you actually need to have a reason to use metaphors. Anyway, the robot comes to life, pulls itself together, and begins murdering shit in what feels like twice the film’s 90-minute running time.

Why is there a voyeur in this?

There is no attempt to hide this behind some intellectual exercise. The guy across from the heroine is filming the leads during a sex scene lifeless and poorly lit enough to lower your sperm count. Here is the funny part – he films her in infrared. That’s right – he is beating off with his tongue flickering everywhere to a couple of shapeless red blobs. So, if dividing amoeba gets your rocks off, then Hardware is the film for you. Why does he do this instead of using a night vision camera or a fucking normal one? Well, since the budget of the film came from scouring couches left on the curb for change, the director figured as long as he rented an infrared camera to represent the robot’s vision, he may as well use it for something else.

Two black guys are in it. They die, right?

Shortly after their introduction. A Stepin Fetchit type is playing chess with a black guy wearing glasses, who states that a Sicilian maneuver invariably beats a computer, since they do not understand sacrifice. A good line, except nobody sacrifices themselves to save the Queen anyway. They follow the heroine into the apartment so that one can be cut in half by the door (spraying metaphorically significant amounts of blood) and he accidentally shoots the other guy. The robot really doesn’t do much. The woman gets a bat and beats the shit out of it, eventually giving it a good shower. The killing prowess of Mark 13 decreases exponentially as it nears the top of the actor credits.

Being a sci-fi opus, scientific fact is respected, right?

The robot dies if exposed to water, so this population-reducing juggernaut is spiffy unless caught in the rain. Or if it gets showered with blood. Or fucking anything. It sees in infrared, despite its stated purpose of operating in arid climates where infrared would light up with the 110-degree temperature emanating from every surface. Predator is ripped off further when the heroine hides in an open fridge to conceal her body heat, which is great except if the surface body temperature plummeted far enough for her to disappear in the cold of the fridge, she would be in profound hypothermia and be rather dead. And hot bodies don’t cool off that fast. The robot carries a toxin that apparently dissolves body tissue and attacks neurons and produces euphoria, walks the dog, gets the mail, and kills instantly. The robot repairs itself by dragging itself (including individual wires) across the room.

Why is Iggy Pop in this?

Presumably because somebody is a fan. As a radio shock jock, he gets in immortal lines like “And the good news today is… there is no fucking good news! So let’s rock!” Five writers labored around the clock (once around, anyway) to produce this masterwork.

So, is it worth a look or not?

Maybe for the scene featuring the least efficient murder of all time. If this robot was designed to depopulate the earth, it does a piss poor job of it by requiring several minutes to reduce a person to their requisite molecules instead of killing them and moving on. The storm troopers from The Black Hole were more dangerous. The moral of the story is, just because you enjoyed Blade Runner and Robocop does not mean you should remake them using literary tools far beyond your Tyrannosaur-like grasp.



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