Screen Entertainment

Upgrade: B-grade movie gold

The fact that Upgrade is so woefully unoriginal in its narrative is almost inexorably and perversely beside the point, writes Darren Bevan. 

It robs cliches and genre tropes in every way, stealing from Robocop, via Cronenbergian body horror, and late 80s buddy cop/tech shows like Automan and Knight Rider.

Yet it does it with such glee and B-movie abandon that it makes diamonds from cinematic coal.  

In a world just five minutes from now, where autonomous cars roam the roads and technology is close to taking over, the Tom Hardy esque Logan Marshall-Green is Grey Trace, a veritable Luddite who prefers to listen to vinyl, and repair his old Pontiac Firebird in his garage. His wife, Asha (Melanie Vallejo) is a little less stubborn in her technology approach insofar as she works for a computer company. 

However, their world is changed when their autonomous car goes nuts. It leads them to the wrong part of town, and leaves Asha dead and Grey disabled. Grey is then approached by a tech genius who offers to surgically insert a computer chip into his spine. It is there Grey is triggered by the thought of avenging his dead wife. 

So with the STEM system inside, Grey begins his quest. 

Upgrade may be have a low-level budget, but it brings some inventiveness to the visual table.

In a cast where acting is sometimes secondary to the screen (with the exception of Marshall-Green and Vallejo), the film is sometimes marred by its less-than-hitting-the-roof ambitions.

But there is no denying the film's look and feel is like a dirty Blade Runner with 80s revenge movie intentions. Drones hover in the sky in this day-after-tomorrow world, and Saw director Leigh Whannell deserves some praise for his execution. 

There are some nifty fight sequences that don't skimp on gore or style but its plot holes somewhat undermine it.

There is, however, no denying that it's deserving of a good night out at the movies. For a sci-fi B-movie - which is rarely seen these days - Upgrade is a serious contender for guilty pleasure movie of the year. It knows what it wants to do, strives to build on its high concept premise, and isn't afraid to fail.


Cast: Logan Marshall-Green, Melanie Vallejo, Betty Green
Director: Leigh Whannell

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