Upgrade Movie Review: For better or worse, I look back fondly on action movies of the ‘80s. The ridiculous plots, over-the-top action, and unapologetic celebration of gore all occupy an oddly tender place among my childhood memories. Leigh Whannell’s Upgrade is a 21st century heir to the movies that made Rambo, Robocop, and the Terminator enduring cultural icons. Upgrade doesn’t appear to be the start of an action movie renaissance and doesn’t offer any iconic characters, but what it does is entertain. Brutal, charming, and delightfully imperfect, Upgrade is just clever enough, and maybe more importantly, just dumb enough to balance absurd premise and plot against the higher expectations of sophisticated modern audiences.
Upgrade was written and directed by Leigh Whannell, who wrote or co-wrote the first three movies in the Saw series, and lends an unmistakable horror influence here. Set in the near future, Upgrade follows Grey Trace (Logan Marshall-Green), who’s left a quadriplegic widower after a brutal attack in a robbery-gone-wrong. Trace (Marshall-Green) sets out to find his wife’s killers with the aid of his newly implanted computer chip that not only lets him walk again, but gives him Jason Bourne-level fighting skills. The concept is ridiculous, as is the name Grey Trace, and it works perfectly here. Whannell’s protagonist is an effective medium for vicarious audience experience. Jason Bourne’s gimmick is that he doesn’t remember he’s not a regular guy; Grey Trace’s gimmick is that he is a regular guy, suddenly able to do extraordinary things.
To nobody’s surprise, a movie from the guy who wrote Saw is pretty graphic. This feels like an ‘80s throwback, too — like the vicious and comedic violence in the Arnold Schwarzenegger classic The Running Man, or the Friday the 13th movies. Also harkening back to the ‘80s was a general tone in which the future will be both better and worse than the present, depending on your station in life. Whannell’s world of the future hasn’t bridged the gap between haves and have-nots, and things can get pretty ugly for the latter. Falling just short of dystopian, Upgrade paints a bleak picture for those wary of technological advances unrestrained by ethics. Trace (Marshall-Green) is a luddite in his world, serving the dual purpose of making his technological enhancement a greater burden, and positioning him as the touchstone for the audience, a mirror in which the audience can see themselves and relate to a world in rougher shape than our own.
Upgrade fits in with the modern take on the action genre seen in successful action movies of recent years. Movies like John Wick and Kingsman revel in unapologetic violence. As brutal as it is, that violence is made palatable for audiences by being set in worlds removed just enough from real life that the causes and consequences of that violence need not be considered. The morality of the world and the characters therein exist comfortably outside any setting that might spur audience self-examination. This movies offers the opportunity to ask deeper questions, if one were so inclined. It’s much more likely that those questions will largely remained unanswered, if asked at all, after watching this movie. The gimmick and gore are a bit too distracting to allow space for considering big ideas. In the end, let’s not overthink it. Sit back, relax, and watch a computer chip transform a quadriplegic into an assassin.
Upgrade Movie Review
|GENRE:||Horror, Sci Fi, Suspense|
|RELEASE DATE:||June 1 2018|
|AUTHOR:||Jason M. Brown|
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