Set thirty years into the future, Upgrade finds Grey Trace as the paralyzed victim of a mugging where his wife was killed. He has more or less given up on life when a billionaire presents him with an intriguing option: if Grey tests an experimental computer chip implant, he will also receive mobility and a chance to avenge his wife.
As much as futuristic technology plays a part in Upgrade, it still has the heart of a straightforward action movie. Grey might only be able to pull off his sick moves thanks to the implant, but those moves are still reminiscent of something from a 1970s martial art flick. That’s not a bad thing – quite the opposite if you’re a fan of the genre – but if you solely came for a story of dystopic warnings, you might be left disappointed finding a somewhat flat revenge story of Charles Bronson-esque proportions.
It should surprise no-one that the implanted chip, dubbed S.T.E.M., is sentient, and starts taking control of Grey’s body. That does give the
run and kill person A, B, and C a bit of a twist, but still… You mostly get Grey running around, killing person A, B, and C.
Upgrade is still a technically well-constructed movie, and a typical Blumhouse release: high-quality production values, resulting in triple box office returns on the chintzy five million dollar budget.
Leigh Whannel, well known for the Saw and Insidious franchises, has put together a stylish movie, and the fight choreography sits front and center. Upgrade doesn’t fall into the trap of showing a blur of bodies bumbling around, but rather allows for clear and concise sequences, adding more of a heightened pulse than those of a faster-moving equivalent. If you are a fan of classic martial art movies, you’ll certainly find something to like in Upgrade. Sit around for a Saw-like twist ending, and it’s hard to argue the film isn’t entertaining.
And it is. Entertaining. You get some great fight sequences, bolstered by good acting and surprisingly sophisticated cinematography. Upgrade feels like a higher budget movie than it actually is. It’s not going to change the landscape of either the action, sci-fi, or thriller genres, but it still makes for an honorable entry into all of them.