Dir: Richard Stanley, 1990
Dystopian futures, have always played a part in arts. Whether it’s literary, like George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty Four and the works of Franz Kafka, or the cinema such as Fritz Lang’s Metropolis and, even, Logan’s Run, the theme of oppression has been a staple of fiction, secretly hiding a warning of impending doom if we allow things to continue the way they are.
In the nineties, however, there was a surgeance of post-apocalyptic dystopia. Movies like Tony Maylam’s Split Second, Kathryn Bigelow’s Strange Days and the Sylvester Stallone adaptation of Judge Dredd, the depiction of an unwanted time that is (inevitably?) yet to come, have allowed filmmakers to go into overdrive.
An allegory for apartheid that was in force at the time, South African director Richard Stanley’s cyberpunk/steampunk/whatever, Hardware, is an exercise in style and imagination, but all at the expense of coherency.
Like a more perverse Short Circuit, Stanley’s movie has the grain of a brilliant idea but is lost in the execution.
Clearly influenced by Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner and the George Miller/George Ogilvie film Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome, Stanley’s vision has very little originality, if any.
Dylan McDermott is entirely the wrong actor for the film. Mumbling his way through the script, McDermott looks in a perpetual state of somnambulism, while the only expression his face can muster is “I’m only doing this for the money”.
The biggest problem with the film, is that it can’t shake that sense of being done before. Every frame, is a facsimile of every other sci-fi story prior to this release.
Visually, the film is impressive, despite it all being unoriginal. However, it works against it. You are so distracted by the set design, that you fail to follow the (already incoherent) storyline.
Hardware is a mess of platitudes, that needed some drastic work being done before filming commenced.