Hardware (1990)

Like a veritable hodgepodge of “Blade Runner,” “Brazil,” “Mad Max” and early-’90s MTV-style stylization, Richard Stanley’s directorial debut is a visually striking, forcefully distinctive living nightmare of a movie. The story itself is a fairly straightforward, claustrophobic home invasion plot with an advanced robot stalking the characters in lieu of a burglar, but there are undertones of political strife and corrupt bureaucracy that help make the narrative all the more resonant by rooting it in social uncertainty and rampant (and well-earned) government mistrust. Stanley shoots the movie like a highly stylized video with some pop art thrown in for good measure (it’s no surprise to discover that he got his start in music videos and commercials), accompanied by a soundtrack that’s compellingly all over the place: From industrial to opera, from orchestral to metal, there’s a bit of everything going through just about every shot, not to mention rapid-fire editing that keeps things moving along nicely. The movie’s impact is somewhat diluted by the obvious budgetary limits (which occasionally make the sets and creature design look a little rinky-dink) as well as the overall weak acting and writing, but there’s enough here to suggest a budding auteur finding his voice, and that confidence is palpable and compelling throughout.

Rating: ★★★ (out of 5)

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