Review: A common complaint in film circles is that major tentpoles and blockbuster cinema have taken over. And that's entirely true. We live in a franchise world, and while I admittedly enjoy those films to an absurdly geeky degree, it is true that we NEED refreshment. We NEED mental cleanses, even if we don't realize it. We need breaths of fresh air, even if "fresh air" means "absurd, over the top science fiction revenge." Actually, ESPECIALLY when "fresh air" means "absurd, over the top science fiction revenge."
Enter Leigh Whannell's Upgrade, a film I missed in the theater earlier this year. It's a film I missed that I kept hearing about through various channels and critics to the point where I made it a point to check this thing out. I kept hearing about how inventive and energized and wonderfully audacious this film is, and I'm proud to report (after excitedly receiving a copy of the Blu-ray in the Paul Castronovo Show office) that it lives up to all of those promises.
This is a fusion of the revenge action/thriller template and speculative sci-fi in the BEST way. It has elements of some films that have broken into the mainstream in a big way recently like Her (2013) and Ex Machina (2015), but they're presented through a lens that's more reminiscent of things like the John Wick films. It's a really impressive mixture. Director Leigh Whannell crafted a story and a lead character in Grey Trace that are accessible and slick, carrying both legitimate ideas AND B-movie charm.
The film isn't without its goofier and questionable qualities though. While the world is very successfully built, it does at times feel a tad cheesy and it can briefly take you out of the film. Particularly between some of the interactions between Logan Marshall-Green's Grey and STEM, the AI voiced by Simon Maiden. It's usually chilling, but sometimes it lost me. With that said, I think they stuck the landing. This is a raw and ballsy one-and-done, and we need more of this.
Blu-ray Notes: While the film is extremely enjoyable, the Blu-ray release that'll be out on August 28th, leaves a lot to be desired. The only feature included is a digital download of the film, which isn't exactly a special feature so much as par for the course these days. Fans like me who love commentaries, deleted scenes, and things of that nature will be disappointed.