Richard Stanley is a drastically-underrated director and Sergio Leone enthusiast from South Africa whose work is ripe for rediscovery. I’d seen his 1992 film DUST DEVIL before, but not his debut feature, HARDWARE, which I happened to finally get around to during the same weekend I saw the new DREDD movie.
From where I’m sitting, there aren’t many movies as true to the post-punk 2000 AD aesthetic as these two movies, DREDD and HARDWARE, although my friends in the UK will definitely have more trustworthy opinions on the matter. HARDWARE is based on a short strip from 2000 AD, the same series from whence Judge Dredd arrived. It actually is derived from a Judge Dredd storyline!
This is the basic pitch: A trenchcoat-rocking soldier named Moses (Dylan McDermott) purchases the wreckage of a robot found in a post-apocalyptic desert, and brings it back to his sculptor/artist girlfriend Jill (Stacy Travis). While Mo is out, the robot activates and attempts to murder Jill in her apartment. It may visually call to mind the Terminator of 1984, but this guy’s got some even nastier moves than that cyber-Arnold had.
The deceptively-cheap movie — it’s stylish and relentless and looks like plenty more than a million bucks – is almost entirely about this battle, although it makes time for awesomely bizarre and/or disturbing performances by John Lynch (BLACK DEATH), Mark Northover (WILLOW!), and most unshakably, William Hootkins (STAR WARS, BATMAN, RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK) as maybe the grossest movie pervert ever. Iggy Pop and Lemmy also briefly contribute their talents, but with all that craziness surrounding, it all comes down to Jill and her fight to stay alive under attack by that freaky, ferocious robot. It plays out, under Stanley’s direction, as an intensely tangible experience, despite springing out of a totally bonkers sci-fi set-up.
HARDWARE is available for purchase from Severin Films.