We finally seem to be living in a time of low-budget, mildly-indie films that people really enjoy. This is absolutely the case for Upgrade. Sure, it’s essentially a combination of Limitless, RoboCop and the Six Million Dollar Man but what movie isn’t derived from something else nowadays? Even with a similar theme, Upgrade manages to stand on its own two legs (pun not intended) and delivers a futuristic thrill ride for the audience.
Upgrade is about a man named Grey Trace, who is actually not played by Tom Hardy regardless of what it may look like, suffering from a tragic accident that leaves him paralyzed from the neck down as well as a widower. A young tech mogul, played by Harrison Gilbertson, offers Grey a newly developed A.I. device called Stem to fully regain his mobility. Once implanted, Stem is able to verbally communicate with Grey and even offer to take full control over his body if Grey allows. Together, Grey and Stem search for the killers of his wife and take brutal revenge as we see the full, gory, capabilities of an A.I. controlled human body.
Director Leigh Whannell, known for the modern-horror classics Saw and Insidious, does an excellent job of balancing high-tension actions scenes with unexpected humor. He also uses interesting camera angles that stay in focus with the movement of the action. The gritty, sci-fi setting almost reminds you of something out of Blade Runner yet somehow appears more believable or closer to reality.
Logan Marshall-Green, who once again is actually not Tom Hardy or even related to him, does an excellent job of portraying a man suffering from the loss of his wife as well as his mobility and still finding a way to make the audience laugh. The rest of the cast does a fine job but the film didn’t allow much time for any other character to develop. I usually view this as a negative for a film but in this case, the pacing for Upgrade seemed excellent and any other character development might have regrettably slowed down such a fast-paced movie. In their limited screen time however, Harrison Gilbertson excellently portrays a young tech mogul and Benedict Hardie a very believable villain. Overall, the somewhat unknown cast did an outstanding job in this low budget joyride.
Per usual, the Chairgatin’ movie review scoring system consist of American flag recliners, which are good for obvious reasons, and fedoras which are bad, also for obvious reasons. 5 recliners represent the best and 5 fedoras represent the worst. I’m awarding Upgrade three and a half recliners; a well-rounded low budget homerun.
Leigh Whannell knocked it out of the park with Upgrade. With a budget between $3-to-5 million and a box office gross of nearly $9 and a half million in only the second weekend, Whannell knows how to please the fans as well as the studios. It’s a near-future action movie with emotion and laughter that is truly fun to watch. Viewers beware though, this movie doesn’t spare on showing the graphic details of Grey’s revenge. I would definitely recommend going to see this movie in theaters but you might want to leave grandma at home.