In a summer filled with the usual buffet of bombastic big-budget films, it’s understandable that some people might be starting to feel a little burnt-out on reboots and franchise continuations. While this writer will happily sit down and watch the next part of the Star Wars saga and revels in seeing how the Marvel Cinematic Universe unfolds, sometimes you just want something unique. If so, then Leigh Whannell’s UPGRADE is definitely one movies out this summer that you don’t want to let pass you by.
Slick, fast paced and violent, UPGRADE centers on the revenge-fueled journey of Grey Trace (Logan Marshall-Green) as he seeks to bring justice to the men who took the life of his wife Asha (Melanie Vallejo). While Grey was rendered paralyzed by the attack that took her from him, he is offered the chance to walk again, thanks to Eron (Harrison Gilbertson), a introverted tech genius, who has developed a computer chip that, when embedded into the spine, will allow the patient to control their body again, with the chip telling the body what to do. Along with the chip, though, is the artificial intelligence known as STEM (voiced by Simon Maiden) , who takes up residence in Grey’s brain and assists him with his task of hunting down those who wronged him. Along the way, Grey will have to maintain a low profile, as Detective Cortez (Betty Gabriel) is on the case of the murder as well. It’s a three-way game of cat and mouse as Grey struggles to keep the police from being involved, to keep Eron from finding out how he is using his technology, and to avenge his wife.
UPGRADE is a great ride. Seemingly taking inspiration from darker superhero tales, it tells it’s story with humor, flair, and of course, some great action. The exchanges of banter between STEM and Grey are easily some of the best parts of the film, but when Grey lets STEM take control, and you get to see what a man with a computer chip inside him can do to his enemies, it’s a sight to behold. While the action comes in quick bursts, it’s immensely satisfying, thanks to some fun camera work. The first encounter where Grey breaks into the home of one of the murderers is especially great, with some major moments of shock. The scenes are fast but they never feel incoherent, almost to where you’ll wish they could have gone on for longer, just so we as the audience could see more of STEM in action.
Despite this, though, the film is actually much smarter than the trailers make it out to be. As stated, yes, there is great action and gore, but there is also a lot of heart and soul, as you watch Grey struggle with the situation he has been thrown into. He’s a man who has had everything taken from him, in a world he is seemingly out of place in, with all the odds against him.
So while there are no shortage of big blockbuster films to see, UPGRADE is something you will want to make time for as soon as you can — especially if you are someone who may be getting a bit weary of your standard superhero movies and franchise features. You won’t regret it.
Tags: Action Film, Betty Gabriel, Body Horror, Clayton Jacobson, gore, Harrison Gilbertson, Jason Blum, Leigh Whannell, Logan Marshall-Green, Melanie Vallejo, Richard Cawthorne, science fiction, Simon Maiden