Upgrade (2018)

<strong class="MovieTitle">Upgrade</strong> (2018)

(On Cable TV, February 2019) Now here’s a movie that pleasantly surprised me. A lean, efficient mis-mash of conventional SF devices used remarkably well, Upgrade showcases the go-for-broke aesthetics of writer/director Leigh Whannel, playing in a futuristic sandbox without letting go of his usual horror instincts. Here, a man paralyzed by a crime that also left his girlfriend dead ends up the recipient of an experimental treatment: a computer chip that allows him to take control of his limbs … until it decides what to do. Part revenge thriller, part cyberpunk nightmare, part belated entry in the “Artificial Intelligence” wave of SF movies that peaked around 2015, Upgrade is also a blend of science fiction, action and horror with a strong dash of dark humour. It’s needlessly ultra-violent, yet exhilarating in the unusual technique in which its action and fights are captured. The commentary on technology feels familiar yet on-point, and the film is wrapped in an eerie overall atmosphere of off-kilter choices—such as the audio introductory credit sequence. Despite the use of familiar devices, it meets contemporary audiences at their level and proves hugely enjoyable along the way. Giving a substantial role to Betty Gabriel certainly helps. Even at 100 minutes, Upgrade feels like a breeze: I was actually disappointed when it ended, because I wanted a bit more of that good stuff.

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