Movie Review: UPGRADE (2018)

UPGRADE, the latest film from director/writer Leigh Whannell, is a no-holds barred, carnage infused, head trip of a revenge film set in the not-so-distant future. The film stars Logan Marshall-Green (The Invitation), Harrison Gilbertson (Need for Speed), Benedict Hardie (Hacksaw Ridge) and Betty Gabriel (Get Out).

The film centers around Grey Trace, a man who is not to keen with the way technology is overtaking his life. He finds happiness in his love for repairing classic cars, without the use of technology, and living his life peacefully with his wife, Asha (Melanie Vallejo), who he is clearly still very much in love with. After returning from dropping off his latest car rebuild, tragedy unfolds, leaving Grey’s entire world shattered. With no other option in site and revenge on his mind, he opts to test out an experimental procedure that will implant him with a computer chip called STEM. As with any movie that involves artificial intelligence (A.I.) and technological advances that us mere humans aren’t capable of understanding, shits hits the inevitable fan as bloodshed and carnage rain down on all those Grey encounters.

I loved this movie, plain and simple. I’m not always a fan of dystopian themes but I feel as though director Leigh Whannell found that sweet spot with UPGRADE. The city landscape and the futuristic devices now used meshed perfectly with the more old school antics that Grey is used too. The death scenes as well as the amazingly choreographed fight scenes were top notch and executed brilliantly so as to not seem to CGI heavy. The storyline was fresh and intriguing, leaving me guessing (numerous times) as to who the villain was. And though there was death and destruction and gore and carnage at every turn, there was also a lot of humor to help break it up.

With all that said, let’s talk about Logan Marshall-Green because GOD. DAMN. If you aren’t on the Marshall-Green train yet, you are missing out. I’ve been a fan of his for years, but was blown away by his incredible performance in The Invitation. Seeing as I’m a huge fan of Whannell, finding out the two would be working together was everything I could have hoped for. Marshall-Green gives such a brilliant performance as Grey, riding that fine line between a man who has given up on life but is also hell bent on seeking revenge. Along with Marshall-Green, there is also Harrison Gilbertson, as the elusive Eron, Benedict Hardie, as what I can only imagine is the deadliest killing machine of the future, Fisk, and Betty Gabriel as Cortez, a cop who is trying to piece together and make sense of all the unfolding events. Gilbertson was more than effective in giving off the “I’m incredibly creepy in ways you can’t imagine” vibe while Hardie encompassed a ruthlessness and charisma that is hard to match.

What makes UPGRADE so terrific though is the story. Revenge films can get boring after awhile, especially in cases where they follow the same overused tropes time and time again. In a way, this film reminded me of a more futuristic John Wick, minus the dog angle, combined with elements of Frankenstein, and the technology of Minority Report. I felt for Grey, especially during the times when his depression overtook him, and found myself rooting for his survival. Whannell did a phenomenal job in crafting a story that was both action packed but also drenched in a lot of heart and emotions. Most importantly, I LOVED how the film ended. I’m not gong to be that asshole that gives away the ending, but I always appreciate when a movie doesn’t tidy everything up into a neat ball with a bow on top.

Overall, UPGRADE is a tour-de-force sci-fi/horror flick that showcases incredible performances, a solid storyline, and loads of visual eye candy and destruction. It’s one of those films that remind me, once again, that I should have a healthy fear of A.I.’s and the rapid growth of technology. Do yourself a favor and get to the movie theater this weekend and check out UPGRADE, you won’t be disappointed!

Shannon McGrew
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