Upgrade ★★★★

"Upgrade" is the R-rated, violent, sci-fi actioner you didn't know you wanted in a Summer Movie season filled with sequels, super heroes and female centric comedies.

Early in the film, a mechanic (Logan Marshall-Green) and his wife are beaten and robbed...leaving her dead and him paralyzed. He agrees to an untested state-of-the-art surgery that implants into him an artificial intelligence called STEM. It allows him to walk again, but it also gives him enhanced abilities. When the A.I. detects a potential lead into those behind the crime, something the police haven't been able to do, he decides it's revenge time.

What a welcome surprise this was. There are several strengths to what I imagine will become a cult favorite among certain film fans. Chief among the positives is the strong lead performance by Marshall-Green, most recently seen in "Spider-Man: Homecoming" as the first Shocker. I swear he reminds me, in both appearance and characterization, of a second tier Tom Hardy. The action sequences will absolutely hold your attention, especially the moments where the mechanic would have STEM take over his body. Those scenes have an almost Matrix-like manner about them, and I loved his reactions to what his body was doing...including apologizing for the severe beatdowns he was giving the thugs. (The mechanic hears the A.I.'s voice internally, and maintains a constant dialogue with it, which gives the scenes an added kick. Kind of like Tony Stark's back and forth with J.A.R.V.I.S.) The violence is intense and quite gory, deservingly earning it's R rating. The movie looks slick, with effective lighting and pleasing graphics throughout. Props to the portrayal given by Betty Gabriel as well. You'll recognize her from playing the maid in "Get Out" last year, and she's very good here as the police officer investigating the crime.

The film does suffer from a few weaker elements, however. I liked the admittedly familiar comic book plot setup, but the mystery that unfolds throughout will likely be as obvious to you as it was to me. I have to say that some of the surrounding performances are a bit wonky, too...but perhaps not so out of place within a lower budgeted genre flick such as this. Luckily, the film's final moment sticks the landing in such a way that whatever minor issues I had with the picture were forgiven.

Director Leigh Whannell delivers a solid B-movie, and a welcome change of pace from what's currently playing at the multiplex. The kind of film that MoviePass was made for. Roll the dice and check it out. Recommended.

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