Thursday 31 May 2018

Film Review: Upgrade

Slick, scorching, grisly and clichéd AF – strap in for an Upgrade

Written and directed by Leigh Whannell (Saw, Insidious), Upgrade is a screaming collision of Paul Verhoeven tech-thriller, grimy cyberpunk mystery and grotesque David Cronenberg body horror. There are moments of intense gore and dark humour, with fantastic choreography and inventive, dynamic camerawork and editing tying it together. Think Robocop and Minority Report meets John Wick and Avatar

If that sounds like your kind of thing, buckle in for a wild ride. Whannell serves up a frenetic 90-minute sci-fi thriller that opens with Grey (Logan Marshall-Green) and wife Asha (Melanie Vallejo) brutally assaulted by a quartet of cybernetic thugs. 

Waking up in hospital as a paraplegic, Grey’s only hope for exacting revenge is an experimental computer chip called STEM (Simon Maiden), which when installed into the base of Grey’s neck not only gives him the ability to walk but also kick-ass and take names. It also talks to only him and feeds him advice, sort of like if the devil on your shoulder had a baby with a vaguely sarcastic Siri knock-off.

Even if it’s a setting and a premise we’ve seen umpteen times before, Upgrade is garnished with just enough to keep it afloat. The futuristic tech is believable and the stream of dark humour is fun and ensures the bleak Black Mirror-esque paranoia isn’t suffocating. Marshall-Green is the real standout though; his performance is touching, hilarious and badass, sometimes in the very same scene. Just the right balance of mirth and gravitas for this hokey B-movie fluff. 

The film’s first act is its slowest, with a bit too much exposition to really reel you in. However, once Grey and STEM start to understand one another a little better and set off in pursuit of his first act assailants, Upgrade goes off like a firecracker on meth. Whannell chucks gore galore at the screen, with is sometimes a little jarring when stacked alongside some of the more restrained sci-fi thriller elements. 

Where Upgrade struggles is its plot; the twists and turns are immediately obvious to anyone with half a brain and, although they don’t lack impact, are ripped straight from the guidebook on dark sci-fi horror. You’ve seen one, you’ve seen ‘em all, I guess.

The Verdict: 6.5/10

Flashy action and a fun concept are somewhat undercut by some cliched narrative beats and expected twists. All in all, a suitably schlocky genre piece for sci-fi and horror fans alike.

Upgrade opens in cinemas across Australia on June 14.

1 comment:

  1. I want to see this, but I don't think it's a theater watch for me. It honestly looks like the lower budget version of what they're trying to do with Venom so I'm interested in comparing the two once that one comes out.



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