For years, Richard Stanley was more famous for his bad luck in get­ting his vision to the pub­lic than for his films them­selves.  Hardware and Dust Devil were recut by dis­trib­u­tors and he didn’t even get to fin­ish The Island Of Dr. Moreau, ulti­mate­ly being replaced by John Frankenheimer.  Thankfully, his work has got­ten a chance for re-appraisal via DVD: Dust Devil was the first to get an uncut, direc­tor-sanc­tioned reis­sue via the sad­ly defunct Subversive Cinema label and now Hardware has got­ten an uncut release from the good folks at Severin Films.  Unfortunately, it might not live up to the hopes that the unini­ti­at­ed might have for it.

The plot seems straight­for­ward enough when looked at in syn­op­sis form: Moses (Dylan McDermott) is scav­enger who roams the waste­lands out­side a post-apoc­a­lypse New York for a liv­ing.  He picks up any metal­lic junk he finds and either sells it on the black mar­ket or brings it home to his sculp­tress girl­friend, Jill (Stacey Travis).  A skull-like robot head, along with some relat­ed parts, come into his pos­ses­sion and he brings them home to Jill, who prompt­ly adds it to a sculp­ture.  Unfortunately, said robot head is part of a M.A.R.K. 13, a pro­to­type war­fare robot.  Said robot has the skill to reassem­ble itself and resume pur­su­ing its direc­tive… which is, KILL! KILL! KILL!

It’s a ser­vice­able premise and could have made for a crack­er­jack sci-fi/action hybrid but that is not what Stanley had in mind.  Instead, Hardware is a hymn to cyber­punk con­cepts, post-punk music (with an accent on indus­tri­al) and lyser­gic music-video imagery.  The film is packed with inter­est­ing ideas and Stanley works visu­al fx/production design won­ders on a frac­tion of a Hollywood bud­get.  It even boasts cameos by Lemmy of Motorhead and Iggy Pop, who is very fun­ny in a voice-only role as nihilis­tic, jive-talk­ing d.j.  It a film could suc­ceed on ideas and ambi­tion alone, Hardware would be a four-star clas­sic.

That said, a film also needs to be dra­mat­i­cal­ly com­pelling to ful­ly suc­ceed and, to Your Humble Reviewer’s eyes, Hardware is not.  The script lacks any sort of dra­mat­ic thrust, lan­guish­ing for forty min­utes of atmos­pher­ics before final­ly get­ting its plot in gear.  To make mat­ters worse, most of the char­ac­ters come off as unpleas­ant, annoy­ing or both.  Stanley directs his tale with plen­ty of style but he’s con­tent to let that style take the place of sto­ry­telling:  the cam­era swoops around, the fast edits hit with a punch and Simon Boswell’s impres­sive orchestral/electronic-fusion score blares but they seem to show­boat­ing for the glo­ry of mak­ing some­thing that looks and sounds cool instead of apply­ing them­selves to the needs of the sto­ry­line.

Ultimately, Hardware isn’t very com­pelling to watch if you’re not obsessed with cyber­punk cul­ture.  There is sound and fury galore but noth­ing for the view­er to relate to.  Instead, we get abra­sion and alien­ation.  Some might groove to its tech­ni­cal excel­lence but oth­ers will finds them­selves bored and annoyed.  Let the buy­er beware…