Review: Leigh Whannell's Action Packed 'Upgrade' Starring Logan Marshall-Green

High concept on a low budget. That’s been Blumhouse’s whole thing for a long time now, and it only gets stronger with every passing film. Last year’s brilliant Happy Death Day and the acclaimed Get Out deconstructed the horror genre while providing enough subversive thrills and humor to rake in big money without the need of big name stars or splashy effects. They’re small movies with big ideas that don’t hold back. The studio continues this streak with their latest film Upgrade, a sci-fi action genre hybrid which is one of the wildest rides I’ve experienced this year.

Set in a tech-driven distant future, the film follows Grey (Logan Marshall-Green, doing his best grumbly Tom Hardy voice) an old-fashioned mechanic who refuses to get with the times. While his wife works for a big tech company, he prefers his simple analog lifestyle. However, after a horrific attack leaves him paralyzed from the neck down and his wife dead, he opens his eyes to the possibilities of his modern world in the form of STEM, an artificial intelligence implant that could potentially restore his mobility. The only catch is that it’s so experimental, he’d have to keep the procedure top secret, and remain paralyzed in the eyes of the public and the police. Able to walk again, Grey discovers that his implant can also communicate with him, and provide him with superhumanly fast reflexes and strength. Using his new powers, Grey goes on a path of revenge, seeking out the people who shot his wife and ruined his life. And it’s awesome.

Written and directed by Leigh Whannell (Saw), this film is the most fun I’ve had with a movie all year. While its setup is heavy, it doesn’t take itself too seriously, and understands that you’re here for a fun ride. And the audience I saw it with loved it too. There were countless moments of cheering and whooping as we watched our half-robot protagonist take down bad guys.

While on the topic, it should be noted, if you hadn’t already pieced together, that this is a very violent, hard-R movie. The action is intense and visceral, which should be somewhat expected from a movie made by the mind behind Saw.

The film feels both incredibly new and endearingly old-fashioned. The story and tone are both huge throwbacks to the gritty world of 80’s action, from Robocop to Death Wish , while the insane, kinetic camerawork and “dudes fighting in hallways” plotline makes it almost feel like a video game, but in the best possible way. If this weren’t an original property, this would be the best video game movie ever made.

Which bring me to the biggest aspect of Upgrade that I appreciated: its originality. If you’re sick of all the big fun summer movies being sequels, remakes, and adaptations, Upgrade is the movie you’re waiting for. While it could feasibly get sequels, it’s not a franchise starter. And while it pays heavy homage to the genre pieces that came before it, it’s definitely original and has an, admittedly really weird, voice of its own.

While it isn’t a terribly smart movie, it is clever and incredibly well made. It can be predictable at times, but that’s honestly part of its deep-dive genre charm. I genuinely had more fun with Upgrade than I have with any other movie this summer.

Rating: 4 out of 5