Upgrade Review

Upgrade - Theatrical Poster #1

Leigh Whannell has been in this business for some time now. He’s primarily known to be one of the co-creators of the Saw and Insidious franchises. After 15 years of doing horror, Whannell is taking a stab (no pun intended) at sci-fi with the film, Upgrade. Is Whannell’s first foray into sci-fi a success or is it a step in the wrong direction for the horror guru?

Fortunately, Whannell’s story has so many twists, turns, and action that’ll keep you entertained throughout the entire runtime. Unfortunately, the film does suffer from some terrible B-movie acting.

Upgrade follows Grey Trace who has the perfect life. He has a beautiful wife and a comfortable job where he builds classic muscle cars. However, tragedy strikes when he becomes a paraplegic and his wife is murdered. He is given a second chance at life when one of his clients gives him the opportunity to walk again with the help of STEM. Trace finds out that with the help of STEM, he can find those responsible for his wife’s death and exact revenge.

Upgrade - Logan Marshall-Green

When you watch any sort of preview for Upgrade, you get a sense that you’re going to watch an action-packed sci-fi film. It seems like a comedic sci-fi version of Death Wish. Yet the red band trailer is a trick because Upgrade is nothing like what you expect. Leigh Whannell put together a story that’s both funny and thrilling but also unpredictable. That is not to say that Upgrade is original. Yet it’s the type of film that’ll lead you one way then go into another direction the next. With all of the twists and turns, the film keeps you on your toes.

Yet there are several times where the film drags with exposition. There’s quite a good amount of world building and technology in this film. Hence certain scenes—including the first act—just seems to drag the film down.

However, there are times the sci-fi aesthetic of Upgrade does feel like a B-movie film though. Because Upgrade is still a low budget film, some of the visual effects are a bit shoddy. Thankfully, the visual effects aren’t a big part of the film. Since this is a Leigh Whannell film, the violence in the film can get very bloody and gruesome. But this violence serves a specific purpose. Not only are the kills glorious but they’re realistic as well. Everything grounds the film and its nutty concept. Not to mention, the practical sci-fi settings do give the film a lived-in feeling too.

Upgrade - Betty Gabriel and Logan Marshall-Green

With general audience’s desire for quality over quantity, general audiences may not get past the B-movie level action by the actors. That is to say, the acting is bad in this film. Logan Marshall-Green is both a detriment and strength to this film. From a physical performance point-of-view, Marshall-Green is great. His performance as a paraplegic is believable and sympathetic. He’s in a depressive and angry state and he displays these qualities quite well.

On the other hand, a lot of his line deliveries seems forced. Not to mention, Marshall-Green doesn’t have any charisma in this film at all. Audiences will feel sympathy towards his character but may not root for his success at all. On top of that, Marshall-Green’s performance is very monotonous and gives his character zero personality.

He’s not the only one either. Every actor in this film hams it up with their performance. It’s very much like a B-movie but it may be off-putting to others. The only exception to this is Simon Maiden as the AI, STEM. Maiden brings much of the personality and laughs to the film. Essentially, he brings the film much of its life. Not bad coming from someone who’s playing an AI.

Overall, Upgrade is a great sci-fi thriller that has more twists and turns than a roller coaster. Needless to say, you won’t see the twists coming and it will definitely throw you in a loop. However, while the B-movie aspect will attract the niche crowds, the general audiences will be off put by the terrible acting and low budget sci-fi look. Yet if you’re able to set those judgments aside then you won’t be disappointed by the film.

Rating: 3.5/5 atoms

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Mark Pacis
Mark Pacis 1336 posts

Self-proclaimed "Human IMDb" and comic book geek. Biggest Iron Man fan you'll probably ever meet.