Upgrade is an action horror film, produced by Blumhouse, of Insidious fame, being the companies first venture into the action genre. The plot follows Grey, (Logan Marshall-Green), as a man who loses his wife and his ability to move at the hands of a group of armed men. When all seems lost in steps, Eron Keen, (Harrison Gilbertson), with a device called Stem, that can give him both the ability to walk again and, the tools for getting revenge. What follows is a surprisingly deep dive into the symbiotic relationship between man and machine, revealing a collection of harrowing truths.
This film has some much to praise, such as merging the action, horror and dark comedy genre; to an outstanding effect. The film’s action feels very real and weighty, with there being some incredibly gory sequences; which are surprisingly effective from a narrative standpoint. The only issue is that there isn’t enough of it, after the very slow build at the beginning, the delivery is superb yet sparse. The action scenes are fantastic but, they are too few. The film’s horror is incredibly strong, perhaps the best element of the film. It all derives from a conversation about technology, can it be trusted and what has it done to earn our trust? The answers the film gives to these questions are both harrowing and fascinating. Said themes and ideas serve to show the complexity of the narrative; with a lot going on beneath the surface. The comedy of the film is pitch dark, and spot on near every time, never failing to make you shudder as much as you laugh.
The performances in the film are a mixed bag. Marshall-Green sells every scene he is in, conveying a wide array of emotions in a few facial expressions. His performance is much more layered then you would expect from an action film leading man. However, the supporting cast doesn’t get any near the same level, with Cortez, (Betty Gabriel), being a clear example. Cortez is a frustrating character, even sometimes annoying, but this is no fault of Gabriel as her lines are weak and uninspired. Cortez has no development, the scenes she is in you are left asking why she’s there. The main issue with her weak narrative is that it deflates the film’s emotional climax, cheapening it somewhat.
Overall this is a surprising success, very deserving of all the praise it is getting, yes it has some minor issue, but on the whole, it is superb. A must see for the message alone. Another hit for Blumhouse.
Reviewed by Luke