Upgrade is a slick and serviceable sci-fi that retreads the oft-used Frankenstein trope in a near future, with Melbourne convincingly masquerading as a futuristic USA.
Grey (Logan Marshall-Green) is a taciturn but content technophobe living in a technological world. He restores vintage (70s era) cars whereas his gorgeous wife Asha (Melanie Vallejo) embraces everything techno, from a job with a robotics company to an automatic car and an aversion to ‘old school’ cooking. After delivering a car to uber-wealthy young tech company genius Eron (Harrison Gilbertson), their automatic car malfunctions and the couple is attacked by untraceable thugs. Grey is left a quadriplegic and after trying to end his life, is given the chance by Eron to be ‘upgraded’ with a revolutionary new chip called STEM. Regaining full body function yet forced to keep STEM confidential, he is soon caught between the inability of good cop Cortez (Betty Gabriel) to find the thugs and his own new and improved capacity to hunt them down and obliterate them outside of the legal system.
The rendering of a slick, technological future is well done and not so far from what we have now; self-driving cars, surveillance drones, smart devices embedded in furniture and appliances. The glimpses of Bolte Bridge and the Hume Freeway are familiar but suitably high-tech and there is a deliberate attempt to make it all seem very Hollywood. Most of the accents are solidly American with only a few Aussie vowels poking through to betray the films origins (Clayton Jacobson, I’m talking about you).
Marshall-Green is convincing as the hero, in the ilk of Hugh Jackman or Sam Worthington; all brawn and beard but with a good heart. The women are all pretty peripheral, there to drive the hero’s narrative, but they do their best with the little screen time they have. The character of Eron is the most poorly drawn and unconvincing – I’m not sure if it was the cheesy dialogue or stilted delivery by Gilbertson but every scene with him made me laugh, and not in a good way.
There’s a fair bit of ultra-violence – director Leigh Whannell has a horror pedigree as one of the creators of the Saw franchise – and the grittiness of this, along with the conflict within Grey as he battles his new self, kept me mostly engaged. I was the only chick in the cinema and I get the feeling this one’s been made for the blokes. Even so, it’s not a bad way to spend a couple of hours.
Have you seen this film? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.