June 6, 2018

Upgrade Review

Logan Marshall-Green

Saw writer Leigh Whannell’s sophomore effort as a director deserves to be seen by a bigger audience than it will. In a familiar future, Grey Trace (Logan Marshall-Green, aka store brand Tom Hardy) struggles to avoid the technology that is overtaking society. His wife, Asha (Melanie Vallejo), works at a robotics firm, has a self-driving car and loves their smart home. He uses his hands to rebuild vintage muscle cars. Then, the couple is devastated by a Death Wish-style act of violence that leaves Grey with no choice but to embrace a new technology called Stem (voiced by Simon Maiden). Now, Grey, who was confined to a wheelchair, can rumble like a Terminator, which is good, because naturally, he uncovers a conspiracy behind the crime that robbed him of his life. 

Whannell confidently combines horror movie effects with a “Black Mirror” techno-fable that has not lost its sense of humor—think micro-budget Paul Verhoeven sci-fi satire. The production design is Blade Runner 2049­ amazing, considering the budget. Grey’s horrified reactions when Stem uses his body to rip grown men to shreds is funnier than most mainstream comedies, and Marshall-Green’s performance is physically impressive.  

Unlike many low-budget pulp flicks, Upgrade’s no-name cast is no liability. Sporting a horrific mustache and hairstyle that screams evil creep, Benedict Hardie evokes a skeezy Ryan Gosling as main baddie Fisk. It is rare that a movie conjures such strong video-game comparisons without also seeming like it would be better played than watched.