On trial for raping concert pianist Gally Morton (Clare Wren), evil businessman Daniel Emerson (Michael Cerveris) gets four of his sleazy buddies to provide a fake alibi for him. After Emerson is acquitted, Gally goes to the roof of the courthouse and leaps to her death.
Five years later, Daniel and his four friends have made a fortune by illegally foreclosing on people’s houses. They may think that they’ve gotten away with their crimes but what they don’t know is that Gally’s brother, Albert (Bruce Davison), has been building a robot version of his sister. Soon, Robot Gally is killing off all of Emerson’s friends while a courtroom sketch artist named Alison (Stacy Haiduk) and a detective named Dunn (David Naughton) attempt to figure out what’s going on.
A mix of The Terminator and I Spit On Your Grave, Steel and Lace is a classic of its kind. While the deaths are inventive and, considering who Robot Gally is killing, deserved, what really sets the film apart is the strong cast and the inventive direction. Director Ernest Farino wastes no time getting down to business and he inventively opens the film by cutting back and forth between Emerson assaulting Gally and the jury acquitting him of the crime that we just saw him commit. Davison is not in the film as much as you might expect but he still makes an impression as the fanatical Albert and Naughton and Haiduk are likable even if their scenes sometimes feel like padding. Best of all is Clare Wren, an actress who deserved to be a bigger star and who is convincing both as the fragile Gally and as the vengeance-driven robot. Robot Gally eventually comes to question whether justice is truly be served by all of the killings and Wren sells it. Also be sure to keep an eye out for David L. Lander, playing the prerequisite eccentric coronor. (Has there ever been a movie coroner who wasn’t an eccentric?) Finally, Brian Backer — who will be forever known for playing nice guy Mark Ratner in Fast Times At Ridgemont High — is effectively cast against type as one of Emerson’s stooges.
Steel and Lace is one of the best low-budget films to come out of the early 90s, a deeply satisfying tale of robotics and vengeance.