Upgrade ★★★

Written and directed by Leigh Whannell, a long-time associate of James Wan’s who had a hand in creating the Saw and Insidious franchises, Upgrade is a confluence of a heavy-handed cautionary tale and social satire encased within an aesthetic framework of a violent genre film. I suppose it is often compared to Black Mirror, which I am not familiar with in the slightest; therefore, my uneducated mind ended up establishing a completely different set of connections to contextualize this film and thus I saw it as a modern-day companion piece to Paul Verhoeven’s Robocop.

However, this comparison is imperfect at best, mainly because of this film’s approach to satire, which isn’t really there at all and only occasionally shines through the layers of more ham-fisted treatment of its themes that altogether give the film an atmosphere of an afterschool special at times. This of course stands in stark contrast to the film’s truly gratuitous approach to violence, which actually ends up working in its favour. In fact, if it hadn’t been for the graphic and bloody action, I think I wouldn’t be able to sit through what otherwise is a pompous sermon about the dangers of artificial intelligence elbowing its way into our lives.

In short, Upgrade is a reasonably entertaining, comfortably-paced genre film that succeeds purely on the basis of its unrestrained approach to violence, but nonetheless ends up bogged down in its thematic aspiration to being a Verhoeven-esque cerebral satire. Therefore, as much as I don’t necessarily regret the time I spent watching it, Upgrade isn’t a film I would be willing to come back to. It’s a completely disposable piece of entertainment suffering from a mild case of the Dunning-Kruger effect.

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