Hot Take: A solid B-movie. If Ex-Machina were a low budget B-movie action flick, this might be the result. Stir in a little Death Wish, too… it’s at least much better than the Death Wish reboot. (And maybe better than the original Death Wish, too.)
I’m very cautious when I see Blumhouse Productions attached to a project. On one hand, Blumhouse was responsible for Get Out, Sleight, Split and Happy Death Day last year. On the other hand, it was also responsible for such duds as Jem and the Holograms, Hush, The Darkness, The Belko Experiment and Truth or Dare. While there’s reason to think that any movie from Blumhouse has potential, there’s also the chance you’re about to sit through a real slogfest. So, a film like Upgrade, a futuristic Sci-Fi action flick with B-movie written all over it and the usual low ($5 million) budget that accompanies a Blumhouse Production, was hard to get too excited for. A relatively unknown cast featuring Logan Marshall-Green as a man left paralyzed after a senseless attack on him and his girlfriend and offered the opportunity to walk again through the use of something called STEM, artificial intelligence that can control your body also didn’t do much to raise expectations. However, Upgrade delivered a witty, fun, violent and even smart script with committed performances and very little lost due to a relatively shoestring budget.
In Upgrade, it’s the near future. Grey Trace (Marshall-Green) is a mechanic who builds classic cars and is not at all into the latest and greatest technological advances. His wife Asha (Melanie Vallejo) works for a tech company named Cobolt. Being somewhat of a technophobe, Grey has Asha accompany him to drop off a classic car to his client, Eron Kreen (Harrison Gilbertson) who is the head of Cobolt’s rival company Vessel. There, Kreen shows the couple his company’s latest creation, STEM, a gadget that can connect to anything and improve it. On their way home, Grey and Asha are ambushed by four men who kill Asha and leave Grey paralyzed. Grey is approached by Kreen who offers to implant STEM into his body to allow him to regain motor function. The only catch is Grey must sign non-disclosure agreement and never tell anyone about STEM. Once inside Grey, STEM begins to communicate with him and offers him a path to revenge on his wife’s killers. Because of STEM, Grey has gained superhuman abilities that have made him into a killing machine.
Upgrade has some dark moments but, for the most part, is a fun ride. The hectic pace fits the 95 minute run time well and it hardly ever drags. If you’re hankering for a throwback action flick, this one is reminiscent of those past action flicks of the ’70s and ’80s and has both B-movie and Grindhouse elements that make it a more instinctive movie. There’s plenty to think about but the film doesn’t dwell on the cerebral elements of the plot. Those cerebral elements are more window dressing to make the film seem a little smarter than it is. It works well, though, as the film never feels like a throwaway as most action flicks of this ilk usually do. It’s a worthwhile endeavor for anyone who can find enjoyment in a Sci-Fi action thriller without the need for big budget bells and whistles. It’s one thing Blumhouse really knows how to do, even in the worst circumstances and Upgrade is definitely one of the studio’s better efforts.
The chip implanted in your head recommends seeing it.
When you hear the word chip, all you can think about is dip.