Written by: Christopher O’Neill on February 17th, 2015
BluRay released: February 23rd, 2015
Approximate running time: 94 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Widescreen / 1080 Progressive / MPEG-4 AVC
Rating: 18 (UK)
Sound: DTS-HD Stereo English
BluRay Release: Three Wolves Ltd. / Brightspark Ltd.
Region Coding: Region B (UK)
Retail Price: £10.25 (UK)
Synopsis: A post-apocalyptic future: a scavenger searches the desert wastelands for materials and discovers, amongst the remnants of a battle, the skull of an android that is signified as ‘Mark 13’. Emerging from the wilderness into over-crowded urban decay, the remains find their way into the possession of Jill, an artist holed up in an apartment block closed off from the pollution-ravaged outside world. She creates art pieces with scrap metal and uses the Mark 13 elements for her latest work – but what Jill doesn’t realize is this android was build by the military to be the ultimate killing machine, able to adapt and rebuild itself out of anything under any conditions. Jill’s lover Mo, a military employee who brought the Mark 13 to her, learns of the android’s capabilities as it begins to absorb total control of the apartment. As Mo races through the city to protect Jill, she is unaware of the android’s activities and that she is simultaneously being stalked by a neighbor with degenerate intentions for her.
Co-produced by Palace Pictures and Miramax Films, HARDWARE was a major triumph for both these independent companies as well as the British film industry in general, which was struggling mightily during the early nineties. Richard Stanley had to date only helmed music videos, short films and documentaries shot on Super 8 and 16mm prior to HARDWARE but the financiers could see that the youthful writer-director was clearly an exceptional talent. Shot by an enthusiastic but largely inexperienced crew for approximately £800,000 (a meager amount for an effects-leaden genre film), it opened in America on 700 prints and rated as number six at the US box office on its first week. Eventually going on to gross £6,000,000, HARDWARE hailed 24 year-old Stanley as a director to watch and became an instant ‘cult’ favorite when released on video.
In an interview on Subversive Cinema’s DUST DEVIL disc, Stanley describes the screenplay of HARDWARE as “one of the poorest scripts I’ve ever written” and was completed in one week out of sheer frustration. According to Stanley, it is essentially a compilation of every element suggested by financiers after all of his other potential projects had been rejected, and on face value, the film is heavily derivative of just about every popular genre film of the period such as BLADE RUNNER, THE TERMINATOR and ALIENS. However, what makes HARDWARE so impressive is the way Stanley warps and molds these components into a picture that relates closer to his own cinematic influences – stylistically, the film is closer to such Italian directors as Mario Bava and Dario Argento rather than Ridley Scott or James Cameron – while reflecting his own personal interests and perceptions (for a potentially mainstream picture, HARDWARE is intensely perverse in its depiction of sex, drugs and violence). The results are an aesthetically enthralling experience that ranks as one of the finest genre debut features of the 90s.
As arresting as Stanley’s visual style is, praise must be lauded to Stacey Travis, whose central performance as Jill gives HARDWARE the emotional core it sorely needs to ultimately prove effective. A compelling screen presence as well as a strong genre heroine – Stanley compares her scream to Fay Wray – Travis is able to eclipse her co-star Dylan McDermott who, as Jill’s lover Mo, is incredibly bland and his lack of enthusiasm in the project is painfully obvious. There is, however, strong support from John Lynch as Mo’s spaced-out friend Shades (who spends much of the film on an acid trip while trying to deal with the crisis at hand) and, as the personification of sleaze, William Hootkins as Jill’s voyeuristic neighbor. Hootkins, an ex-pat who appeared in countless British pictures whenever a brash American was needed, is genuinely creepy in the role and is one of the picture’s strongest attributes. There is also an amusing cameo from Lemmy, of the band Motorhead, while Iggy Pop contributes the voice of Angry Bob, the radio personality “with the industrial dick”.
Hardware comes on a 25 GB single layer (20.0 GB) BluRay. The film is presented in a 1080 progressive widescreen. This film has a distinct look and this transfer does a great job retaining said look. Flesh tones look accurate and color saturation looks consistently strong, especially during scenes that are hued with crimson red. Though the bulk of the film takes place during dimly lit / darker moments, consistently strong contrast and black levels ensure that there is greatly improved clarity during these aforementioned moments. When it comes details things for the most part look crisp, with a few of wider shots lacking the same level of clarity that is present for the bulk of the film’s running time. Also grain structure look intact, DNR is kept in check and there are no issues with compression.
This release comes with one audio option, a DTS-HD stereo mix in English. There are no issues with back ground noise or distortion, everything sounds balanced and dialog always comes through clearly. Range wise things sound very good as the more action oriented moments provided a robust soundscape and when it comes to the more ambient aspects of the soundtrack things are well represented.
Extra content is limited to two limited edition art cards from world famous comic artist Clint Langley (2000AD, Slaine, ABC Warriors, Guarding’s of the Galaxy, Marvel). Considering that this is a twenty five anniversary release the lack of extra content is a huge let down, especially when Severin in the U.S. and Optimum in the U.K. have each released this film on Blu-Ray with an abundance of extras. Overall Hardware gets a strong audio / video presentation from Three Wolves Ltd.