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Movie review: There is no downside to the science-fiction thriller ‘Upgrade’

Movie review: There is no downside to the science-fiction thriller ‘Upgrade’
01 Jun
6:32

There’s a special feeling about genre films that are made on a low budget but that keep you completely engrossed in what’s going on. Think early John Carpenter or Sam Raimi or, in the case of “Upgrade,” a name to consider that you might not know yet: Leigh Whannell. The Australian filmmaker wrote the first three “Saw” movies, as well as the first four “Insidious” films. His initial stab at directing was “Insidious: Chapter 3,” and he follows that up with “Upgrade,” for which he donned writer and director caps. And he’s got a winner.

Set slightly in the future, when homes are fully computer-controlled, and self-driving cars are so advanced, you can loll (and do other things) in the back seat while it takes you to your destination. That’s where old school car mechanic – and technophobe – Grey (Logan Marshall-Green) and his wife Asha (Melanie Vallejo) are when they’re brutally attacked by gun-toting thugs, shot up, and left for dead. Only Grey survives, and he does so only as a quadriplegic, now living life either in a bed or in a wheelchair.

A few months later, his life has become a routine of being taken care of by machines or by his mom, who keeps coming by to visit. Another person he deals with is Detective Cortez (Betty Gabriel), who is determined to find the attackers/murderers. But even with the assistance of a sky-full of police drones that caught the assault on camera, there’s been no way to identify the perpetrators’ faces.

But, as mentioned, this is a genre film, and the genre is science-fiction, with a dollop of thriller and maybe a tad of horror. One of Grey’s auto mechanic clients is the ridiculously wealthy and brilliant inventor Eron (Harrison Gilbertson), who has come up with STEM, a device which, when implanted in someone even as injured as Grey, can fix him, make him better. It’s an exercise in, as Eron says, “biomechanical fusion,” or the art of making Grey’s brain work in tandem with the device.

Suffering from despair due to his situation, Grey is talked into the procedure, but is told that the results must be kept secret. Those results are that after a chip is placed within him, he’s almost immediately up and walking. But no one – not the detective, not his mom – can know that this has happened. He must pretend to still be a quadriplegic.

That device, called STEM, has a voice, one that only Grey (and movie audiences) can hear, and he has running discussions with it. In due time, Grey realizes that he’s not only normal again, but he’s also, let’s say, new and improved. He now has extraordinary agility, speed, and strength, three skills that are perfect for him when this all turns into a story of revenge – a very violent one that also has a huge dose of black humor.

So, it’s Grey, with an assist from STEM, going after the bad guys, who also have some certain extra skills and powers, but doing so without anyone knowing that it’s him. Things get complicated when the detective begins to have suspicions about Grey, and when the film starts serving up car chases and very cool fights scenes. Add to that a race-against-the-clock scenario that threatens to return him to being a paraplegic, and you’ve got a terrific and extremely offbeat little movie. The icing on the cake is that there will be plenty of different interpretations of the ending.

Source: http://hull.wickedlocal.com/entertainmentlife/20180601/movie-review-there-is-no-downside-to-science-fiction-thriller-upgrade

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