Under the Radar

'Upgrade': A Nasty and Brilliant Sci-Fi Thriller

Logan Marshall-Green stars in "Upgrade." (Universal Pictures)

"Upgrade" (out now on Blu-ray, DVD and Digital) is a low-budget, under-the-radar feature from writer/director Leigh Whannell, the guy behind the "Saw" and "Insidious" movies. Filmed in Whannell's native Australia, the sci-fi/horror thriller features an incredible lead performance from the underrated Logan Marshall-Green ("Quarry," "Prometheus").

Grey Trace (Marshall-Green) is an old-school guy living in the near future. He's built a business restoring vintage muscle cars for rich guys, while his wife Asha (Melanie Vallejo). After delivering his latest car to tech billionaire Erron Keen (Harrison Gilbertson), the couple's self driving car breaks down on the wrong side of town. Asha is killed and Grey is left paralyzed after a robbery.

Erron eventually offers Grey a Artificial Intelligence computer implant called STEM that will allow him to walk again. Unfortunately for the bad guys, the implant also gives Grey superhuman fighting abilities and helps him track down the men who murdered his wife.

Bettye Gabriel ("Get Out") plays a police detective who starts to suspect that Grey may not actually be confined to a wheelchair when she realizes that he's always in the vicinity when the bad guys get killed.

Sound like a few dozen other movies you've seen? Maybe. What makes "Upgrade" different is the spectacular and inventive production design, creating a sleek near-future world without employing an overload of CGI. For the moments when STEM is controlling Grey's movements, Marshall-Green gives an amazing physical performance that evokes a broken body controlled by electrical impulses. Whannell's got the skills to film fight scenes. Also, fans of his horror movies will appreciate the exploding viscera that accompanies every revenge killing in the movie.

"Upgrade" ends with a shocking twist that still works after multiple viewings. It's that rare pleasure: a B-movie that earns an A+.

 

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