∞ Ben(ch)’s review published on Letterboxd:
Mark Fisher once quipped in his 2009 book 'Capitalist Realism' that "...it is easier to imagine an end to the world than an end to capitalism". I think Leigh Whannell would agree. You see, for the dystopian cityscape in Upgrade--and our technophobic protagonist Grey Trace--urban life has been fully overthrown by big tech, corporate greed, androids and stalking drones. Only the raw will to power remains. All things analog, even consciousness itself, must adapt or die. Beep, beep. Nah, I won't bore y'all with a recap of a two year-old budgetbuster already past its prime, but, suffice it say, Mr. Trace must become what he fears the most (a kind of flesh-puppet for a sentient microchip) in order to enact revenge against all those who harmed him (ie, murdered his wife + made him paraplegic + stopped him from repairing Mustangs back in the ol' garage...). What follows suit is a marginally convincing little action flick without any metaphoric heft to glue each set-piece together. If it weren't for a few memorable shots and some equally impressive reverse-POV action sequences, this movie would barely float to the surface against an ocean of fellow Blumhouse productions.
No thanks Leigh. For all my lukewarm criticism, though, Logan Marshall-Green is quite good here considering the lack of material he has to play with. More than just some "Bruce Lee on autopilot" as Owen Gleiberman calls him, Marshall-Green is at his best when possessed by STEM, marvelling at his own bodies' capacity to wreck such horrific violence. Less can said for the supporting cast. Vallejo is saddled with the sad responsibility of the "soon-to-be-dead-wife" caricature. Gilbbertson is nothing less than a discount Jared Leto. Gabriel is more casual spectator than cop. Sure, Abbot's production design (for interiors, specifically) are cool but I find the over-reliance on hard LED's a little distracting as the film pushes forward. Don't get me wrong--that scene in the abandoned warehouse full of broken glowsticks was cool. But 'cool' isn't enough to satisfy my interest. Palmer's OST is cool. Duscio's cinematography is cool. Leigh Whannel's script is cool. Is this a "playfully trashy" "genre exercise" (quoting Simran Hans) to add to the dystopian catalogue? Yes! Is this a good movie? Maybe not.