So many films are released every week that it is hard for even the most ardent of cinephile to keep up. As a result, some fly under the radar. And some of those are good films. Such was the case of Upgrade for me. I had not really heard or read anything about it. When it came time to sit down, watch it then review it there was almost like a first-time moment that happened. It was like being the first one to watch on virgin snow. You get to enjoy it without any outside influences and make up your own mind about it.
I knew nothing about the story even though it is a rather topical and timely one. One concerning human interaction or even further, blending with computers. Technology and human beings working together in the same body. The possibility of this does not seem so far fetched in a world that is beginning to use A.I.
In a time that is not so far in the future, humans now rely on technology even more than ever. Computers now control our houses and drive our cars. Most think this is a great thing, while a few still hold out for the old days. One of those types is Grey Trace (Logan Marshall-Green – Spider-Man Homecoming, Prometheus). He clings to paying people with paper money and driving himself. He works sparingly custom building older cars like Camaros for a few clients. One of his only clients is Eron Keen (Harrison Gilbertson – from television’s Picnic at Hanging Rock), a wealthy inventor.
While out with his wife Asha (Melanie Vallejo – from television’s Power Rangers Mystic Force) the car goes haywire causing them to crash. While trying to get out of the wrecked vehicle, Grey and his wife are attacked by a group of well armed men. The leader, Fisk (Benedict Hardie – Hacksaw Ridge, The Light Between Oceans), shoots Grey in the neck rendering him unable to move, so all he can do is watch as they kill Asha.
Grey does not see surviving the attack as a good thing as he beloved wife is dead and he is a quadriplegic. An attempt to kill himself is unsuccessful and he ends up back in the hospital. While there Eron Keen visits him and tells him he can make him walk again with an operation that would be illegal. They would implant a computer called STEM into Grey allowing him to walk again. This, Eron Keen, tells him would afford Grey the ability to hunt down his wife’s killers.
Another film from the Blumhouse (Truth or Dare, Unfriended, Get Out, The Purge) stable. They seem to have the ability to make films on the cheap that make plenty of money for them. Most of the time the films are nothing really to write home about, but when they do find a good one they are usually home runs like Get Out, BlacKkKlansman and Whiplash.
The futuristic world here is not so different from our own that it is unrelatable. Then it dwells within the idea of technology – is it a good thing or not? Should we really allow computers to have more control over the world we live in? Will it improve life? Should we be scared? Do they give us more freedom? Or is it just an illusion? Does Grey have choice or he just enabling the computer to “live” through his body?
Horror comes in to play when Grey begins to realize he has gained movement, but lost ownership over his own body. Realizes that he has lost more than he has gained. Nothing is simple in the film with plenty of nuance happening at every turn.
A fun film to watch with some of the coolest fight scenes I have ever watched and oozing stylishness. This coolness is aided great by the tight script which really does not have any unnecessary scenes in it. Plus the script is smart with some oddly funny dialogue. Several times the story goes in ways you might not expect it to keeping things fresh and interesting like the action sequences. Never really reducing itself to merely a revenge flick.