Set in the near-future, technology controls nearly all aspects of life. But when Grey, a self-identified technophobe, has his world turned upside down, his only hope for revenge is an experimental computer chip implant called Stem. – (Source)
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 85% (Critics) / 91% (Audience)
MetaScore: 65 – Generally favorable reviews
Directed By: Leigh Whannell
Written By: Leigh Whannell
Starring: Logan Marshall-Green, Harrison Gilbertson
, Betty Gabriel, Benedict Hardie and Simon Maiden
Studio: Blumhouse Productions
I was pretty confident in writer/director Leigh Whannell‘s writing skills so there was no concern about how good of a screenplay UPGRADE would have but I was unsure of just how well he would do in the director’s chair since his only other directing gig had been on INSIDIOUS: CHAPTER 3 which was the weakest of the films in the INSIDIOUS series and this was a much different sub-genre of horror he was tackling with UPGRADE. Luckily my fears were for naught because Whannell delivered a tight, focused film that was crackling with intensity and energy while also working in the quieter moments. I also loved the world building that Whannell did in this film because it was obviously the future but the technology wasn’t outlandishly futuristic. Instead it was what I would assume will be the natural evolution of the way we currently have allowed technology to creep into all corners of our daily lives.
A lot of what made UPGRADE work aside from Whannell’s writing and directing was Logan Marshall-Green‘s performance as the upgraded main character, Grey Trace. Grey was a relative Luddite in the not-too-distant future world of UPGRADE where pretty much every aspect of a person’s life was run digitally. Marshall-Green gave Grey a constant crankiness at how the way of living he preferred was being pushed out by technology and in the process much of the control he felt over his life and, once he was equipped with the Stem tech, his nervous fear and bewilderment at how he was also losing control over his own body to that same technology.
And a major tip of the hat goes to Whannell, Marshall-Greene, Simon Maiden (who was pitch perfect as the voice of the Stem tech that Grey was bonded with) and to stunt coordinator Chris Anderson for the way the scene where Grey first gives Stem control over his body as Grey was being beaten to a pulp. Grey’s bewilderment, Stem’s nonchalant play-by-play, the way the scene was set up and the actual fight choreography were all so great and ended up being an awesome combination. I loved every second of that scene. Actually all of the fight scenes in this movie were really well done (they looked like if JOHN WICK were a cyborg) but this one was my absolute favorite.
The leader of the paid hit men seemed to be a much more advanced melding of flesh and technology than we were seeing with Grey and Stem. I mean the guy was able to sneeze deadly nanites that could kill you in seconds, had x-ray vision, could interface with other tech and had a freaking gun-arm…compared to that Stem’s helping Grey walk again seemed pretty damn pedestrian.
The plot for this film was pretty basic and almost every step of the way could be predicted by anyone that had ever seen any movie with revenge as it’s primary driving point.
Final Verdict: UPGRADE is a top flight sci-fi/action/horror/thriller hybrid film that does not disappoint. If you ever wanted to see a BLACK MIRROR style film made for the teeming masses then run (don’t walk!) to your nearest theater and check this one out. It is very much worth the price of admission.