“Upgrade,” an irresistibly gory science-fiction melodrama, is B-movie schlock done right. The film follows pseudo-everyman mechanic Grey Trace (Logan Marshall-Green) whose body and wife are destroyed by upwardly mobile cyborgs with a God complex (no, really).
From this plot synopsis, you might think that writer/director Leigh Whannell has a lot to say about man’s relationship with technology. You’d be wrong since Whannell (writer/co-creator of “Insidious” and “Saw”) doesn’t have the patience to develop any of his film’s bigger ideas about how modern technology uses its creators more than we use it.
Thankfully, viewers with a hearty stomach and a taste for blood will be delight to learn that Whannell delivers other things in abundance, like sickening violence, a Dr. Frankenstein-like computer scientist, a bar that’s decorate with as many bones (human and animal) as Leatherface’s den in “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2,” and a mystery sub-plot whose clues are all instantly ferrete out by “Stem” (Simon Maiden), a devil-on-your-shoulder version of KITT from “Knight Rider” who lives inside Grey’s post-accident head. You’ll have a good time with “Upgrade” if you don’t take Whannell’s half-baked ideas or unabashe blood-lust too seriously.
The genesis of the Saw saga is often associate with James Wan and himself, wrongly. Indeed, if the director is well behind the camera and partially behind the screenplay, it is one of his regular collaborators, Leigh Whannell, who is the instigator of the franchise, whose first opus is much more recognize for his torture scenario as his hysterical staging. And it is this same Leigh Whannell, rid of James Wan, that we find behind Upgrade, umpteenth production SF downright mowed, oddly from the catalog beautiful, fresh Blumhouse. Hey, wait, they do not make horror them ?!
KURU’S NOTICE ON UPGRADE
The film of small malin could be a genre in itself. Freed from the chains of science fiction, horror or comedy, it can take many forms, but still offers a cocktail that pushes us to exclaim “Wow, chanted! When the final credits roll out. Saw was clearly a smart little movie.
And Upgrade is one too. Under its unpretentious little B-series, Upgrade is either a small nugget or a huge surprise. You see, there is nothing more prolific than the science fiction B series. But how many Renaissances must we stuff to scratch a Predestination or an Upgrade?
With this film, Leight Whannell succeeds all that 90% of the mowed productions will have. Its concept, base on artificial intelligence, is not very original. However, the director / scriptwriter manages to bring him a real singularity by injecting large doses of black humor.
What begins as a simple concept film turns into a comedy action a chouia gore before switching to the black thriller. Upgrade goes from one genre to another with an ease that commands respect, while benefiting from a truly inventive staging. Take the introduction of Kingsman 2, think back to his very framing “video games”. It’s pretty, but neither justify nor really relevant. It is primarily done for style and by extension for the show.
Leigh Whannell has fun with this kind of shots, with intelligence nevertheless.
He does not abuse it and even allows himself to justify it. On screen, the rendering is absolutely sensational and the lack of resources completely disappears in favor of the virtuosity of camera movements.
This mastery brings a certain playful dimension to Upgrade, which ultimately turns out to be as enjoyable in its funny scenes as in its action scenes or twists. Because do not forget, we’re talking about Saw’s screenwriter. In 15 years, Leigh Whannell has lost nothing of his writing skills and offers his new film an absolutely striking conclusion, at the height of the shock produced in 2004 to discover his first scenario.
Rating: R (for strong violence, grisly images, and language)
Genre: Action & Adventure, Horror, Science Fiction & Fantasy
Directed By: Leigh Whannell
Stars: Logan Marshall-Green, Melanie Vallejo, Steve Danielsen
Written By: Leigh Whannell
In Theaters: Jun 1, 2018 Wide
On Disc/Streaming: Aug 28, 2018
Runtime: 95 minutes
Studio: Blumhouse Productions
Upgrade is as fluid and exhilarating as anything the Wachowskis signed their names to in the days when they were brothers: the kind of nifty, sometimes nasty surprise our multiplexes sorely need.
The fight sequences are refreshingly odd in their conception, with Grey an awkward puppet to his own kickass moves.
Upgrade is a brutish, efficient and well-executed slice of cyberpunk action-horror with a silly streak.
Writer/director Leigh Whannell gives us a glimpse of the near-future and it’s both fascinating and terrifying.