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Upgrade provides throwback sci-fi fun

Blumhouse Productions presents their latest thrill ride, Upgrade, from the director & writer Leigh Whanell. In the near future, technology controls nearly all aspects of life. When Grey (Logan Marshall-Green), a self-identified technophobe, has his world turned upside down, his only hope for revenge is an experimental computer chip implant called Stem.

After an impressive opening credit sequence, we meet our lead character, Grey. A skilled auto mechanic Grey has just finished a custom-built car for technology whiz billionaire Eron (Harrison Gilbertson). Grey's wife Asha (Melanie Vallejo) accompanies him on the trip. While she's impressed with Eron's toys, Grey, on the other hand, is against technology. On their journey home, the two are attacked by thugs, which results in Grey paralysis and Asha's death. Eron then offers Grey a chance to walk again using a technology known as STEM, and once Grey learns what STEM can do, he seeks revenge.

From the previews, I initially thought Upgrade would be a revenge flick with loads of action. At the same time, there are some excellent action sequences. Upgrade offers a bit more than most genre pics. In his first lead role, Logan Marshall-Green is good as Grey. I felt all of Grey's emotions from the moment he loses his wife to his battles with paralysis and his fear of technology. The scenes that require Marshall-Green to fight are believable, and I would love to see more of Marshall-Green in action roles.

There's also the chemistry that Marshall-Green has to have with STEM, which Simon Maiden voiced. The back and forth dialogue between Maiden and Marshall-Green reminded me of the eighties' classic eighties buddy comedies. In hindsight, watching the film, there were times when it felt that Marshall-Green was playing dual roles since STEM is controlling his body.

The rest of the supporting cast also offers solid supportive work. Betty Gabriel, who I've been waiting to see in a feature lead, shines as Cortez, a cop determined to help Grey. While Benedict Hardie does excellent work as Fisk, the gang's big bad and leader who murdered Grey's wife. Hardie's portrayal of Fisk should open more doors for villain roles, as he makes the depiction look easy.

I also enjoyed Whannel's script and his views of the future. Whannel's vision shows that society depends on technology with simple tasks such as driving all being computer operated. While there are some cool moments in Whannel's future, it's also a bit scary to know that society isn't that far away from being dependent upon machines. I did have one gripe with the film. Towards the end, it begins to lose a bit of steam and drags. However, the twist ending makes up for the slow pacing. Whannell could've trimmed off a good ten minutes and had the same effect,

Upgrade is an excellent nostalgic throwback cinematic to eighties b-movies I grew up loving. Director Leigh Whanell has crafted a film with impressive action sequences and a great twist ending that I didn't see coming. While Upgrade may not be a huge summer blockbuster, it's an enjoyable time at the movies.

Final Grade B

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