Film Review – ‘Upgrade’

It is intriguing that writer/director Leigh Whannell is a pivotal Hollywood player in the horror/thriller genre. ‘Saw’ is what gave him his success. The success may not be in the field of acting as he played a leading role opposite Carey Elwes in this now classic franchise, but Whannell is a true collaborator with now A List director James Wan. These two have a working relationship whether it’s to executive produce an instalment in the Saw/Jigsaw franchise or produce a film in the near coming future. The door is always open for these two to collaborate on future projects. However to witness Whannell take the reins and create his own baby in this case ‘Upgrade’ has Whannell upgraded to being in that league of James Wan? E.G. ‘Aqauman,’ ‘Fast and Furious’ franchise and ‘The Conjuring’ franchise. Let’s just say the answer is a resounding no! Nonetheless, ‘Upgrade’ is a film with potential. It’s fun, watchable and has some impact.

Set in the near future, technology controls nearly all aspects of life. But when Grey, played by Logan Marshall-Green, a self-identified technophobe, has his world turned upside down, his only hope for revenge is an experimental computer chip implant called Stem. The revenge theme can relate to the ‘Death Wish’ films. His wife is brutally murdered right before his very eyes by a gang with hidden motives. The gang injure Grey only to result in him being a quadriplegic. The question is how will a man paralysed from the neck down get his revenge? Let’s just say this is where the fun begins and the film is fun but lacks that lustre for the audience to say Wow! I want to watch it again. ‘Upgrade’ is a good one time watch and after that, it is a DVD that collects dust on the shelf.

The merit of the film is to see the chip implant in Grey’s spine put to use. It can relate to a Jekyll and Hyde theme. A stem is a talking chip that only talks to Grey in his mind and Grey is in control. Or is he? He can tell the voice to stop talking, he can tell the voice to take control and when Stem takes control this is where the audience is entertained. We see a quadriplegic intimidate his wife’s killers verbally and once Stem takes over, Grey kicks ass brutally with excellent graphics and gory violence. This is the influence of Leigh Whannell’s experience with the violence from the ‘Saw’ films. Except it’s used with a vigilante approach that the audience supports this revenge.

Nonetheless, what’s amusing is when Detective Cortez played by rising actor Betty Gabriel from ‘Get Out,’ (the freaky maid) investigates and interrogates Grey, his alibi of being paralysed makes him a step ahead from her up to a point. Perhaps it is the lead role not having much of a presence. Logan Marshall-Green is given a chance to carry a film, and the audience will ask, who’s he? Most will remember him as the love interest of Noomi Rapace in 2012’s ‘Prometheus.’ Any film buff may ponder who was the first, second and third choice to play this lead role and why did they pass on it? It’s simply because the script is average but with great potential.

‘Upgrade’ carries the Sci-Fi conventions effectively and raises the clichéd questions. Has science gone too far with nature? Yes! Can technology eventually take control over the human in charge? Yes! Should we watch a vigilante film where technology helps a crippled man get his revenge in a brutal and barbaric way? Sure! Just watch it with low expectations and by the end, you’ll be averagely entertained.

Aly Lalji | [rating=3]

Sci-fi, Action | Australia, 2018 | 15 | 7th January 2019 (UK) | Blu-Ray, DVD | Universal Pictures | Dir.Leigh Whannell | Logan Marshall-Green, Melanie Vallejo, Steve Danielsen, Benedict Hardie, Betty Gabriel