Review: Upgrade

Leigh Whannell’s seeming homage to David Cronenberg pits an analog holdover named Grey (Logan Marshall-Green), who likes to listen to blues music on vinyl and rebuild classic cars, against the already arrived cyborg technology that rules the rest of his life in this approximation of our immediate future. As it turns out, Grey is married to a woman (Melanie Vallejo) who is totally into tech, and, in fact, works for a company that has a huge stake in this brave new world of AI and total interconnectivity. Eventually, this clash of sensibilities comes to a head, and Grey is left paralyzed after an accident involving a self-driving car.

Though Grey had little affection and even less use for vanguard tech, he eagerly agrees to be a guinea pig for an experimental technology called Stem that promises to make his limbs once again respond to his brain’s command. As Grey learns to use this new technology he finds it has quirks of its own that add to the superhuman context. For one thing, the technology also seems to have a mind of its own, which is not necessarily a bad thing for Grey, since his main motivation for getting his motor functions back is revenge. The result is often comic and definitely unsettling, as Grey becomes a kind of perfect fighting machine, only one whose controller—himself—sort of sits back and marvels at what he can do. Whannell has a lot of fun with this aspect, but in the end, Upgrade doesn’t give us anything to chew on beyond the clever and very violent action set pieces. There’s the usual cop who thinks that Grey’s actions are suspicious as well as at least one evil genius whose own weird capabilities are not enough for him. Not much of an upgrade there.

Now playing in Tokyo at Shinjuku Cinema Qualite (03-3352-5645), Shibuya Cine Quinto (03-3477-5905).

Upgrade home page in Japanese.

photo (c) 2019 Universal Studios

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