Main cast: Logan Marshall-Green (Grey Trace), Betty Gabriel (Cortez), Harrison Gilbertson (Eron Keen), Melanie Vallejo (Asha Trace), Benedict Hardie (Fisk Brantner), Linda Cropper (Pamela Trace), Simon Maiden (STEM), Christopher Kirby (Tolan), Clayton Jacobson (Manny), Sachin Joab (Dr Bhatia), Michael M Foster (Jeffries), Richard Cawthorne (Serk Brantner), and Kai Bradley (Jamie)
Director: Leigh Whannell
In the near future – and it’s the future because cars are wrapped in shiny foil and houses have all kinds of lighting to suggest that it is not a time kind to people with epilepsy – Grey Trace is a mechanic who works from home. At least, I think he’s a mechanic – his wife Asha says that he just plays with his cars all day long. It’s probably her paycheck that allows for them to live in that house with bright, futuristic lights because she’s a researcher.
Grey’s problems begin one day when, after making a delivery at billionaire brat Eron Keen’s place (yes, Eron Keen, and not anyone else you may have heard of), he and his wife Asha have a car malfunction and they are subsequently attacked by men that proceed to kill Asha and sever Grey’s spinal cord. Our poor hero is forced to sit in a wheelchair and seethe about his poor wife, but Elon may have a way out of the darkness: he arranges for the implantation into Grey the STEM, an AI chip that is the Upgrade in question, which allows Grey to regain his motor functions. STEM can do much more than Eron initially predicted, however, and it begins to communicate independently to Grey. STEM becomes his BFF in the man’s quest to discover his wife’s murderers, and even offers that man a chance to avenge Asha if that man would allow STEM to take over his brain for a while. Just for a while… of course.
Okay, I may have made fun of some of the set appearances in this movie, but it is actually impressive how well put together Upgrade is considering that it is made on an almost unheard of budget of three to five million dollars. It’s not bad at all, and even the cast of mostly unknowns put on a show worthy of a more expensively made film. Logan Marshall-Green injects some solid emotional core into his character’s role as a man whose only reason to live now is to avenge his wife, and the pacing is rock-solid and exciting. The movie doesn’t offer too many distractions from the main plot – it’s here to get people killed and give the audience a good time in the process, and boy does it succeed.
Sure, the “twist” is predictable, as are many of the plot developments here, but the movie itself is made of fun. The carnage is satisfying to behold, and STEM (seriously, can’t it get a better name?) makes for a cunning, worthy sometimes-ally, sometimes-antagonist foil to our protagonist. And, of course, throughout it all poor Grey is a sympathetic kind of tragic protagonist. Oh, okay, and he’s easy on the eyes too, which doesn’t hurt.
Slick, stylish, and violent, Upgrade is bound to be one of those movies this year that you likely haven’t seen yet, but you really should.