Matt Greene’s review published on Letterboxd:
Upgrade is RoboCop meets John Wick meets Big Hero 6; a mash-up we never knew we wanted but should be glad we got.
It hearkens back to a time when filmmakers made movies that were fun, dark and thoughtful all at the same time. An age-old fable about the relationship between humans and developing technology, it posits that maybe the tech itself isn’t to be feared, but the power technology can give to those who wield it should be.
Set in the near future, a man loses his wife and his limbs all in one night after their self-driving car malfunctions, leaving them to the mercy of a group of non-feeling muggers. He opts for an experimental surgery that places a powerful chip in his body that allows him to gain back full “control” over his faculties. Quickly, the implanted chip, Stem (think a dark, disembodied Baymax), begins to assert more power than expected, dramatically and thematically capturing how trauma can split is into two different people.
It’s like a RoboCop 2.0, with Marshall-Green fully realizing the physicality of his character, even if his more nuanced vocal and emotional delivery are lacking (ala Schwarzenegger or Van-Damme). There’s some slight inconsistencies in the coolness of the tech and in its thoughts on hyper-violence. Fortunately, the action is strong and clear, shot with a kinetic insanity that’s as brutal as it is awesome. Like a tech-based John Wick, it couches the action and brains within some fantastic world-building. It’s a fully lived-in future; familiar, punctuated with notes of otherworldly futurism.
A hard-R, hard-sci-fi B-movie flick, it’s Ready Player One in its digital-world warnings, only with more moral conviction and violent creativity.