(BH Tilt, 2018)
Upgrade is the newest film from Leigh Whannel, the Australian screenwriter who brought us the first three instalments of the Saw franchise. This film is set in the not-so-distant future (I would say it’s in Melbourne since it most of it was filmed there) with police drones flying and recording everything occurring on the streets that are filled with technologically-equipped civilians and self-driving cars. This is an environment that could reflect our future since Police services around Australia have been testing out drones to find illegal and dangerous activity since last year. In fact, chances are that we aren’t that far away from self-driving cars.
Logan Marshall Green stars as Grey Trace, an old-car mechanic who’s sceptical of new technology. After a mugging that resulted in the death of his wife Asha, played by Melanie Vellejo, as well as the inability to move his body, he gets persuaded by inventor Eron Keen – played by Harrison Gilbertson – to try out his new innovative piece of technology: a little robotic bug named STEM placed in the back of his neck that not only gives Grey the ability to move with ease, but also talk to him in his mind (with the voice of Simon Maiden), and take full control over his Grey’s body with his permission. With this new piece of technology, he goes on a rogue hunt for revenge, while being watched closely by Police Officer Cortez, played by Betty Gabriel.
This film does follow a familiar formula seen before, like The Six Million Dollar Man, Robocop, and many other revenge flicks involving a loss in the family. It even comes with its generic characters that don’t have a lot of depth. One example is Cortez, the cop that’s created more for the plot’s sake. Another is the concerned mother, played by Linda Cropper, being the emotional support.
The film is pretty predictable. I was able to pick up who was going to be involved in the murder as soon as the culprit showed up. That was until the twist ending came into play. I won’t spoil it, but it does make up for some of the film’s predictability.
However, just because this film is predictable doesn’t mean it’s all bad news. It has a fantastic sense of dark humour that appears as soon as STEM first shows up. In fact, some of the film’s highlights are in the action scenes.
From the humour in a shocked Grey looking among the damage made by the chip in his neck controlling every bone in his body (except his head), to the amazingly smooth and robotic actions Green performs that makes his performance more convincing. Even the cinematography employed by Stefan Duscio in allowing the stabiliser to be set on Grey’s head captures everything that happens around his out-of-control experience.
The film does have a couple of plot holes (I won’t give them away since it would lead to me spoiling it). But at the same time, I never lost interest. This is mostly due to Marshall Green’s great performance of a fleshed-out character with motivation and charm.
Also, fair warning – this film does get incredibly gruesome with its action scenes. If you hate the sight of very gory and detailed violence, I would say that this film isn’t for you. But overall, Upgrade is a fairly entertaining Aussie Horror / Sci-Fi / Dark Comedy despite its formulaic, generic, and inconsistent nature.