Review - 'Upgrade'
I've seen a good amount of films that show where we're heading in the near future, so just about everything has been done already. Upgrade is the latest to tackle what humanity faces in the near future, and while it's decent considering the minimal resources the filmmakers had to bring it to life, the film still fails to add anything new or interesting to the sub-genre.
Set in the near-future, advanced technology is basically running people's lives. When Grey (Logan Marshall-Green), a mechanic who refurbishes old vehicles, has his life crumble down around him, an experimental computer chip implant called Stem gives him the means to exact revenge upon the ones who were responsible for his destruction.
Upgrade tries to split the difference between thought-provoking sci-fi and B-movie schlock-fest, and comes up short on both fronts as a result. If director Leigh Whannell had just a picked a tone and stuck to it, this film might have been more successful. Instead, when this movie tries to get serious, you can't really go along with it because you just saw a man blow away a bunch of random goons in an almost cartoonishly violent way.
In addition to this, the near-future world in Upgrade is not convincing, and maybe it's because Black Mirror has raised the bar so high, but I never felt transported to a different world and I could always see the sets, which was distracting and pulled me out of the experience. I know that the filmmakers were not allowed a large budget, but a little more money towards building out the world would have gone a long way in selling me on this dark vision of the future.
That said, the film is paced-out nicely and there's never really a dull moment, even though it isn't particularly compelling either. Every time I thought the film might slow down, something would happen to keep the film chugging along at a consistently break-neck pace. It was also a smart decision to cast Logan Marshall-Green in the lead role. He is almost too good for a movie like this and portrays feelings of grief and anger convincingly. That said, the cast surrounding him is not nearly as good and almost seem like they're acting in a completely different kind of film.
Overall, Upgrade is a film that has the germ of a fun and thought-provoking idea, but doesn't have the budget or imagination to fully bring it to life. With maybe $5 million more to work with, this film could have been on the level of say, a Black Mirror episode. Instead, it's more of a cheap knock-off with some fun moments here and there. Still, the film is paced well, and the performance by Logan Marshall-Green is solid enough to make this film a decent diversion.