Action movies and a great story are few in far between. I’m not saying they don’t exist and I’m not saying they can’t, I’m just saying when I go see the new Mission Impossible or Die Hard, I’m not expecting Shawshank Redemption. The same can sometimes be said for horror films and when either of the genres are good and also has an engaging story, they become the movies that we talk about ala; The Raid 2 or The Babadook. Now that Australian director, actor, writer and producer of films like Saw and Insidious; Leigh Whannell has dipped his feet in both, it seems that he has become talented in both those regards.
Upgrade tells the story of Grey Trace, a man who likes to work with his hands and shuns technology in an ever increasing tech relying world. It sounds cliché and maybe in some way it is, but the basic characterisation is balanced out by clever world building that feels realistic in an honest and real way. Grey loses his wife and in the process becomes paralysed in a terrible “accident” and as the story unfolds, Grey becomes subject to a surgery that installs a chip in his cerebral cortex which gives him the ability to move his body below his neck. The twist is, along with the newfound ability to walk, Grey learns that the chip is a borderline A.I and enlists it to help to find and confront his wife’s killers. It seems like a generic plot but its done with some interesting twists and with the world being so engaging and a different type of future we don’t see often, it becomes less cliché and more entertaining.
The action that goes along with the story is intense and visceral. The intensity from these fight scenes is almost comedic at first, considering the chip has complete control over Grey’s body and he is almost in as much shock as the audience is when his body does amazing and horrible things. The choreography and stunts are pretty great and it is accompanied with fantastic makeup and prosthetics which makes each hit, cut and shot look brutally real. All of this was shot in such a different way to what I’ve seen recently that it pulled me straight in, grabbed me and wouldn’t let go.
The acting was pretty decent and didn’t once pull me out of the film. With that being said I didn’t have many issues with this film, as I’m pretty easily entertained but I did have a few complaints. The music felt like it was trying too hard to be Blade Runner and the ever-increasing intensity of effort throughout the film, kept pushing and never stopped. That being said, the only other complaint I had was that one of the antagonists wasn’t exactly physically imposing (although that could’ve been the point?).
Upgrade is a rare find, it’s an action film with heart and style. I don’t think it’s a perfect film, but I did enjoy it. I want to see more films that have guts like this one and I think the industry would benefit from it greatly. This director, actor, writer and producer has talent and it’s clear to see, and from now on I’ll be watching any content he creates… unless it’s scary.