Blumhouse Productions presents their latest thrill ride, Upgrade, from the director and writer Leigh Whannell. In the near future, technology controls nearly all aspects of life. Grey (Logan Marshall-Green), a self-identified technophobe, has his world turned upside down. His only hope for revenge is an experimental computer chip implant called Stem.
After an impressive opening credit sequence, we meet our lead character. A skilled auto mechanic, Grey has just finished a custom-built car for technology whiz and billionaire, despite feeling that man shouldn’t rely on machines for everything. Grey’s wife, Asha (Melanie Vallejo), accompanies him on the trip. On their drive home, the couple is attacked by thugs during a carjacking, resulting in Grey paralysis and Asha’s death. The billionaire offers Grey a chance to walk again using a technology known as STEM. Once Grey learns what STEM can do, he seeks revenge on the thugs.
From the previews, I initially thought Upgrade would be a revenge flick with loads of action. While there are some excellent action sequences, Upgrade offers a bit more. In his first lead role, Logan Marshall-Green gives a star-making performance as Grey. I felt all of Grey’s emotions from the moment he loses his wife, to his battles with paralysis, and to his fear of technology. The scenes that require Marshall-Green to fight are believable. I would love to see Marshall-Green in more action roles.
There’s also the chemistry Marshall-Green has with STEM, voiced by Simon Maiden. The back and forth dialogue between Maiden and Marshall-Green reminded me of the classic buddy comedies of the eighties. Watching the film, there were times when it felt like Marshall-Green was playing dual roles since STEM is controlling his body.
The rest of the cast also offer solid supporting work. Betty Gabriel —I’ve been waiting to see her in a feature lead—shines as Cortez, a cop determined to help Grey find his wife’s killers. Benedict Hardie also did excellent work as Fisk, the big, bad leader of the gang who murdered Grey’s wife. Hardie’s portrayal of Fisk should open more doors for villain roles for him, as he made the role look easy.
I enjoyed Whannell’s views of the future. His vision shows a society dependent upon technology. Simple tasks, like driving, are completely computer-operated. While there are some cool moments in Whannel’s vision, it’s also a bit scary to know that society isn’t far from this fictional vision becoming a reality.
I did have one gripe with the film. Towards the end, it lost a bit of steam and drags. However, the twist ending makes up for the slower pacing. Whannell could’ve trimmed off a good ten minutes and the film would’ve had the same effect.
Upgrade is an excellent nostalgic cinematic throwback to eighties B-movies I grew up loving. Director Leigh Whannell has crafted a film with impressive action sequences and a great surprise ending. While Upgrade may not be a huge summer blockbuster, it’s an enjoyable time at the movies.
Final Grade: B