Sneaking into theaters on the second week of the summer movie season is the new movie “Upgrade,” a slick little action flick that nobody saw coming. This bloody and violent revenge fantasy plays like a mix between “Robocop” and “Death Wish” and should please thrill-seeking audiences that wander over in between the heavy hitters of summer.
The story follows an average Joe named Grey Trace (what a name) who is an old school mechanic while his wife (Melanie Vallejo) works in cutting edge tech. One night their car is hijacked by a bunch of tech-savvy bad guys. The wife is killed and Trace is left paralyzed.
Enter a billionaire genius (Harrison Gilbertson) who has developed a STEM chip that can be implanted on the spinal column. This chip would allow Trace to walk again. It would also give him enhanced physical abilities, something that will come in useful as he embarks on a revenge mission against the bad guys that killed his wife.
This upgrade to Trace’s physicality provides the film’s basic gimmick. Logan Marshall-Green as Trace is very good showing us the facial expressions of a man who’s just along for the ride as the STEM chip takes control of his body, often with lethal results. You end up watching a man who appears to be horrified while he’s mechanically dispatching one bad guy after another. I found it to quite funny, but I freely admit to a macabre sense of humor.
There is also a pleasant bit of banter between Trace and the chip itself (voiced by Simon Maiden). I found myself chuckling at the STEM chip’s dispassionate voice popping into Trace’s head in the middle of a bloody battle. It is a surprising, but welcome addition to an otherwise stereotypical action thriller.
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Credit director Leigh Whannell, the man behind the “Saw” and “Insidious” franchises. He has once again infused a genre story with enough artistic touches to make it stand out from the crowd. He’s also a filmmaker who absolutely knows how to keep an audience’s attention, with yet another lean thriller that delivers plenty of excitement without overstaying its welcome.
The end result is a total surprise at the theater. “Upgrade” sneaks in between “Solo” and “Oceans 8,” two films with much higher expectations. That probably means that most audiences will find “Upgrade” on home DVD, but that’s alright as this isn’t a film that cries out to be seen on the big screen.
In many ways, “Upgrade” is just a standard revenge thriller, but thanks to a director who absolutely knows how to make audience-friendly movies with quirky touches, “Upgrade ends up becoming a surprising, and very enjoyable little cinematic treat.
Reviews by Sean McBride, “The Movie Guy,” are published weekly in the Idaho Press-Tribune and seen weekly on KFDM-TV. Sean welcomes your comments via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Phvntom, Inc. is a digital marketing company located in Boise, Idaho that creates websites, apps, and full-scale promotions/campaigns for other businesses. The views and opinions expressed in this article are strictly those of its authors and were not written by Phvntom. This article was originally published by Idaho Press.