Hardware (film)

Last updated

Theatrical release poster
Directed by Richard Stanley
Produced by JoAnne Sellar
Paul Truybits
Written byRichard Stanley
Based on"SHOK!"
by Steve MacManus
Kevin O'Neill
Music by Simon Boswell
CinematographySteven Chivers
Edited byDerek Trigg
Distributed by Palace Pictures (UK)
Millimeter Films (US)
Release date
  • 14 September 1990 (1990-09-14)(US)
  • 5 October 1990 (1990-10-05)(UK)
Running time
94 minutes [1]
CountryUnited Kingdom
Budget£960,000 [2]
($1.5 million)
Box office$5,728,953 (US) [3]

Hardware is a 1990 British science fiction horror film starring Dylan McDermott and Stacey Travis. The film, which was written and directed by Richard Stanley, also features cameos from Iggy Pop and Lemmy. Since its release, it has become a cult film. The film is about a self-repairing robot that goes on a rampage in a post-apocalyptic slum. Fleetway Comics sued the film-makers over the screenplay because it plagiarised a short story entitled "SHOK!" that appeared in 1980 in the Judge Dredd Annual 1981, a spin-off publication of the popular British weekly anthology comic 2000 AD.

Science fiction film film genre

Science fiction film is a genre that uses rtd-speculative, fictional science-based depictions of phenomena that are not fully accepted by mainstream science, such as extraterrestrial lifeforms, alien worlds, extrasensory perception and time travel, along with futuristic elements such as spacecraft, robots, cyborgs, interstellar travel or other technologies. Science fiction films have often been used to focus on political or social issues, and to explore philosophical issues like the human condition. In many cases, tropes derived from written science fiction may be used by filmmakers ignorant of or at best indifferent to the standards of scientific plausibility and plot logic to which written science fiction is traditionally held.

Horror film Film genre

A horror film is a film that seeks to elicit fear for entertainment purposes. Initially inspired by literature from authors like Edgar Allan Poe, Bram Stoker, and Mary Shelley, horror has existed as a film genre for more than a century. The macabre and the supernatural are frequent themes. Horror may also overlap with the fantasy, supernatural fiction, and thriller genres.

Dylan McDermott American film, stage and television actor

Dylan McDermott is an American actor. He is best known for his role as lawyer and law firm head Bobby Donnell on the legal drama series The Practice, which earned him a Golden Globe Award for Best Performance by an Actor in a Television Series – Drama and a nomination for the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series.



A nomad scavenger treks through an irradiated wasteland and discovers a buried robot. He collects the pieces and takes them to junk dealer Alvy, who is talking with 'Hard Mo' Baxter, a former soldier, and Mo's friend Shades. When Alvy steps away, Mo buys the robot parts from the nomad and sells all but the head to Alvy. Intrigued by the technology, Alvy begins to research its background. Mo and Shades visit Jill, Mo's reclusive girlfriend, and, after an initially distant welcome where Jill checks them with a Geiger counter, Mo presents the robot head as a Christmas gift. Jill, a metal sculptor, eagerly accepts the head. After Shades leaves, Mo and Jill argue about a government sterilization plan and the morality of having children. Later, they have sex, while being unknowingly watched by their foul-mouthed, perverted, voyeuristic neighbor Lincoln Weinberg via telescope.

Jill works the robot head into a sculpture, and Mo says that he likes the work, but he does not understand what it represents. Frustrated, Jill says it represents nothing and resents Mo's suggestion that she make more commercial art to sell. They are interrupted by Alvy, who urges Mo to return to the shop, as he has important news about the robot, which he says is a M.A.R.K. 13. Before he leaves, Mo checks his Bible, where he finds the phrase "No flesh shall be spared" under Mark 13:20, and he becomes suspicious that the robot is part of a government plot for human genocide. Mo finds Alvy dead of a cytotoxin and evidence that the robot is an experimental combat model capable of self-repair; Alvy's notes also indicate a defect, a weakness to humidity. Worried, Mo contacts Shades and asks him to check on Jill, but Shades is in the middle of a drug trip and barely coherent.

Back at the apartment, the robot has reassembled itself using pieces of Jill's metal sculptures and recharged by draining her apartment's power network. It attempts to kill Jill, but she traps it in a room after the apartment's doors lock. Lincoln sees the robot close the blinds while trying to peep on Jill, and, after he briefly manages to open the apartment door, makes crude sexual advances towards her, and offers to override the emergency lock that traps them in her apartment. Lincoln dismisses her warnings of a killer robot, and, when he attempts to open Jill's blinds so that he can more easily peep on her, the M.A.R.K. 13 brutally kills him. Jill flees into her kitchen, where she reasons that her refrigerator will hide her from the robot's infrared vision. She damages the robot before Mo, Shades, and the apartment's security team arrive and open fire on it, apparently destroying it.

As Jill and Mo embrace, the M.A.R.K. 13 drags her out a window, and she crashes into her neighbor's apartment. Jill races back upstairs to help Mo, who is alone with the M.A.R.K. 13. Overconfident, Mo engages the robot in battle, and it injects him with the same toxin that killed Alvy. Mo experiences euphoria and a series of hallucinations as he dies. After Jill reenters her apartment, the M.A.R.K. 13 sets her apartment doors to rapidly open and close; the security team die when they attempt to enter, and Shades is trapped outside. Jill hacks into the M.A.R.K. 13's CPU and unsuccessfully attempts to communicate with it; however, she discovers the robot's weakness and lures the M.A.R.K. 13 into the bathroom. Shades, who has managed to quickly jump through the doors, gives her time to turn on the shower. The M.A.R.K. 13 short circuits and is finally deactivated. The next morning, a radio broadcast announces that the M.A.R.K. 13 has been approved by the government, and it will be mass manufactured.


Stacey Travis is an American actress whose films include Earth Girls Are Easy (1988), Hardware (1990), The Super (1991), Traffic (2000), and Ghost World (2001).

John Lynch is an Irish actor and novelist. He won the AFI (AACTA) Award for Best Actor for the 1995 film Angel Baby. His other film appearances include Cal (1984), The Secret Garden (1993), In the Name of the Father (1993) and Sliding Doors (1998). He has also written two novels, Torn Water (2005) and Falling Out of Heaven (2010).

Iggy Pop American rock singer-songwriter, musician, and actor

James Newell Osterberg Jr., better known as Iggy Pop, is an American singer, songwriter, musician, record producer, and actor. Designated the "Godfather of Punk", he was the vocalist of influential proto-punk band The Stooges, who were formed in 1967 and have disbanded and reunited multiple times since. He began a solo career with the 1977 albums The Idiot and Lust for Life, recorded in collaboration with David Bowie. He is well known for his outrageous and unpredictable stage antics.


The film's script was similar to a short 2000 AD comic strip called "SHOK!" which had been published in 1980. Fleetway Comics brought a successful lawsuit that the film plagiarized the comic strip and so a notice was added to later releases, giving credits to the strip's publisher, Fleetway Publications and creators, Steve MacManus and Kevin O'Neill. [4] Other influences include Soylent Green , Damnation Alley , and the works of Philip K. Dick. [5]

<i>2000 AD</i> (comics) comics magazine from Britain

2000 AD is a weekly British science fiction-oriented comic magazine. As a comics anthology it serialises stories in each issue and was first published by IPC Magazines in 1977, the first issue dated 26 February. IPC then shifted the title to its Fleetway comics subsidiary, which was sold to Robert Maxwell in 1987 and then to Egmont UK in 1991. Fleetway continued to produce the title until 2000, when it was bought by Rebellion Developments.

Fleetway Publications was a magazine publishing company based in London. It was founded in 1959 when the Mirror Group acquired the Amalgamated Press, then based at Fleetway House, Farringdon Street, London. It was one of the companies that merged into the IPC group in 1963, and the Fleetway banner continued to be used until 1968 when all IPC's publications were reorganised into the unitary IPC Magazines.

Steve MacManus is a British comic writer and editor, particularly known for his work at 2000 AD.

Writer-director Richard Stanley had previously made a post-apocalyptic short film when he was a teenager, and Hardware grew out of that film and responses he got from other, unproduced scripts. [6] By the late 1980s, Stanley had joined a guerrilla Muslim faction in the Soviet–Afghan War [5] in order to shoot a documentary. [6] He started pre-production of Hardware almost immediately after leaving Afghanistan.

Soviet–Afghan War War between the Soviet Union and Afghan insurgents, 1979-89

The Soviet–Afghan War lasted over nine years, from December 1979 to February 1989. Insurgent groups known collectively as the mujahideen, as well as smaller Maoist groups, fought a guerrilla war against the Soviet Army and the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan government, mostly in the rural countryside. The mujahideen groups were backed primarily by the United States, Saudi Arabia, and Pakistan, making it a Cold War proxy war. Between 562,000 and 2,000,000 civilians were killed and millions of Afghans fled the country as refugees, mostly to Pakistan and Iran.

The opening scene was shot in Morocco, and the rest of the film was shot in east London. The film was originally more specifically British, but Miramax insisted on American leads. Stanley then added a multinational cast to muddy the setting.

Morocco Country in North Africa

Morocco, officially the Kingdom of Morocco, is a country located in the Maghreb region of North Africa with an area of 710,850 km2 (274,460 sq mi). Its capital is Rabat, the largest city Casablanca. It overlooks the Mediterranean Sea to the north and the Atlantic Ocean to the west. Morocco claims the areas of Ceuta, Melilla and Peñón de Vélez de la Gomera, all of them under Spanish jurisdiction.

Miramax, LLC is a Qatari-owned American entertainment company known for producing and distributing films and television shows. It is headquartered in Los Angeles, California. Miramax was founded in 1979 by brothers Bob and Harvey Weinstein, and was a leading independent film motion picture distribution and production company before it was acquired by The Walt Disney Company on June 30, 1993. Shortly thereafter, Pulp Fiction was released. The Weinsteins operated Miramax with more creative and financial independence than any other division of Disney until September 30, 2005, when they left the company and founded a new studio, The Weinstein Company. Miramax was sold by Disney to Filmyard Holdings, a joint venture of Colony NorthStar, Tutor-Saliba Corporation, and Qatar Investment Authority, in 2010, ending Disney's 17-year ownership of the studio. In 2016, the company was sold to the beIN Media Group.

Stanley wanted to emphasize themes of fascism and passive acceptance of authoritarianism, as he had recently come from the apartheid regime of South Africa. [6] Stanley says that the robot does not know that it is committing evil, and it only obeys its programming, which could be likened to a spiritual quest. [5] Psychic TV was an inspiration for the exaggerated television broadcasts.


Hardware was originally rated "X" by the MPAA for its gore. [7] It was later cut to avoid the stigma of a rating associated with pornography. [8] In the United States, the film debuted at number six. [9] It grossed $2,381,285 in its opening weekend and had a total domestic gross of $5,728,953 in 695 theaters. [3]

Home media

Due to its unexpected success, the film was caught up in continual legal issues that prevented its release on DVD for many years. [10] Hardware was released on Region 2 DVD and Blu-ray Disc on 22 June 2009. [11] It was released on Region 1 DVD and Blu-ray Disc on 13 October 2009 by Severin Films. [12]


Rotten Tomatoes shows that the film received positive reviews from 50% of twelve surveyed critics; the average rating was 5.7/10. [13] On its original release, Hardware received mixed reviews from critics, who cited it as derivative of Alien and The Terminator . [14] Owen Gleiberman of Entertainment Weekly rated the film D+ and called it unoriginal, "as if someone had remade Alien with the monster played by a rusty erector set." [15] Variety wrote, "A cacophonic, nightmarish variation on the postapocalyptic cautionary genre, Hardware has the makings of a punk cult film." [16] Michael Wilmington of the Los Angeles Times called it a shallow splatter film whose exaggerated bleakness elevates it above the typical techno-thriller. [17] Vincent Canby of The New York Times described it as a future midnight movie and wrote, "Watching Hardware is like being trapped inside a video game that talks dirty." [18] Richard Harrington of The Washington Post called it "an MTV movie, a mad rush of hyperkinetic style and futuristic imagery with little concern for plot (much less substance)." [19]

Despite mixed reviews during original release, Hardware managed to become a cult film. Ian Berriman of SFX wrote, "It's one of those lovingly crafted movies where ingenuity and enthusiasm overcome the budgetary limitations." [20] Matt Serafini of Dread Central rated it 4/5 stars and wrote, "Hardware isn't quite the masterpiece that some its most ardent fans have claimed, but it's an excellent piece of low-budget filmmaking from an era when low-budget wasn't synonymous with camcorder crap." [21] Bloody Disgusting rated it 3.5/5 stars and called it "an austere and trippy film" with a narrative that is "a disjointed mess"; however, the film's excesses make it a cult film. [22] Todd Brown of Twitch Film called it "essentially a lower budget, more intentionally punk take on The Terminator" that has an "undeniable ... sense of style". [23] At DVD Verdict, Daryl Loomis called it slow-paced but stylistic and atmospheric, [24] and Gordon Sullivan called it "a hallucinatory and violent film" that has an overly detailed, slow-paced beginning. [25] Writing for DVD Talk, Kurt Dahlke rated it 3/5 stars and called it a "forgotten gem" that "is overwhelmed by style and gore", [26] and Brian Orndorf called it "an art-house, sci-fi gorefest" that is moody and atmospheric without buckling under its own weight. [27] Michael Gingold of Fangoria rated it 3/4 stars and wrote, "If the ingredients of HARDWARE are familiar, Stanley cooks them to a boil with a relentless pace and imagery that makes his future a tactile place". [28]

In a 2011 episode of the television series The Office titled "The Seminar", Gabe offers to watch this film with his girlfriend, Erin, as a compromise when she tells him she wants to watch Wall-E .

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  2. HARDWARE Blu-ray Disc (Director's commentary)
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  26. Dahlke, Kurt (7 November 2009). "Hardware". DVD Talk . Retrieved 15 April 2014.
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  28. "HARDWARE (DVD/Blu-ray Review)". Fangoria.com. 30 October 2009. Archived from the original on 4 November 2009. Retrieved 25 November 2013.

Further reading