Nuclear war has transformed the world into a radioactive desert wasteland, but glimpses of its former glory peek through: cabs still run, TV still plays, and people still have jobs. Moses Baxter (Dylan McDermott) has been out scavenging in the wastes when he comes across a super neato robot head. He brings it home to his artist girlfriend Jill (Stacey Travis), thinking she'll find a use for it. She welds it into a sculpture and all is well...but what neither she nor Moe knows is that the robot is a M.A.R.K. 13, a deadly military-grade bot that can reassemble itself. Soon the M.A.R.K. 13 is awake, complete, and ready to kill kill kill!
While Hardware's narrative is fairly thin and a bit slow to get rolling, it's still an enjoyable ride through that dystopian '80s-flavored future; I, for one, am glad that not even nuclear annihilation can apparently stop people from quipping "Take a chill pill!". The film certainly pales in comparison to its obvious cousins, Mad Max and The Terminator, but if one can overlook the shortcomings of plot and, at times, the performances, there's a lot to appreciate.
The visuals are really where Hardware shines. Stanley and cinematographer Steven Chivers have created a complete, if small, world. The production design is top notch; though the action is largely confined to Jill's apartment, there's always some new detail to take in, from package design to the retrotastic computer graphics.
Frame after frame is simply gorgeous. This is masterful low-budget filmmaking that's all too rare; I didn't care if the story was a bit anemic, I still dug looking at the purty pictures.
Of course, your results may vary, and that's the tricky thing about films considered "cult classics". Some folks are going to rejoice over discovering something so long hidden, while others are going to wonder what all the fuss was about in the first place. Then again, that's probably true of all movies to an extent- yes, I know, I'm particularly profound today- but when a movie is buried for decades only to be unleashed, at last, with some fanfare, expectations run high. Were Hardware's visuals not so delightful, honestly, I'm not sure how much people would be talking about it. It's got some novelty in terms of music and cameos from musicians (Lemmy as a cab driver, putting on Motorhead's "Ace of Spades"? Yes, please.), but the story is familiar and there are several films in this genre that are far superior.
Still, it ain't a bad way to spend 90 minutes- when are non-CGI killer robots ever truly a bad thing?