Upgrade ★★★★

Leigh Whannell takes a second stab at directing with this futuristic, sci-fi action film starring a bunch of barely recognisables and, after a fairly pedestrian beginning, delivers a gratifyingly violent piece of escapist nonsense.

That last part was my Dad speaking. In everyday contemporary terms, Upgrade is a well-written, visually unique action film that belies its small budget to deliver thrills amid gratuitous spurts of blood.

Logan Marshall-Green (from 2016's excellent The Invitation) here stars as a technophobe in the near future - a future in which cars drive themselves to destinations, smart homes pretty much do everything at command, and illegal augmentations to the human body are taking place beneath the shiny surface veneer of this brave new world. When his wife is murdered and he is turned into a quadriplegic in the attack, Grey finds an unlikely ally in a recent client who can enable him to walk again via a brand new kind of tech. Grey agrees to have the tech inserted into his spine and is soon on the move searching for whomever attacked he and his wife ... only to discover his abilities are far greater than just being able to walk again.

Thought the first act is all set up and very slow, once Grey has the implant (called STEM) in him, everything kicks into high gear. Whannell shoots the action in this film in the most unique way since the Wachowski's and John Gaeta created Bullet Time. Rigging his cameras to Marshall-Green and having them move with him not only makes the action feel more visceral, it provides an exhilarating experience. Then Whannell, clearly pleased to have been left off the PG-13 chain, lets the blood and gore rain down as Grey and STEM go to work on the thugs responsible for ruining his life.

The script is smart enough to save a few curve balls for late in the piece, and the final denouement is one which most are likely to appreciate (even if after a moment or two's concern), but it really is the action and the mechanised performance from Marshall-Green which set Upgrade apart. Everyone else is fairly one-note, but Marshall-Green excels as an augmented human who moves as if he is part machine.

Other than some less than stellar acting and a set-up act which was a bit too long and trite, there is very little to criticise here. Upgrade was reportedly made for no more than $5 million dollars, making what it achieves that much more impressive.

If you're a fan of action films, do not miss this one at the cinemas. if you're not, see it anyway. This is one time Blumhouse Productions haven't shafted us.

4 Machines in the Ghost for Upgrade.

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