Back in 2018, an awesome film from Blumhouse just slipped out with little fanfare. Upgrade is a cyberpunk revenge thriller that is very violent and ultra-dark.
The story is set in the near future, where humanity is getting into Ghost In The Shell territory with cybernetic upgrades, a Panopticon society, and enough to technology to make Ted K cry. The main character, Grey, is a bit of a technophobe who works on and restores old gas-powered cars. His wife works for a large company.
One night, Grey and his wife deliver a car to one of Grey’s clients. This is an Elon Musk stand-in who shows them an AI chip that he has invented. It attaches to the spine of crippled people to help them walk again.
On the way back the couple’s car has problems, they end up getting mugged, and things go bad real fast. Grey’s wife is wasted, and he is shot in the neck, paralyzing him from the neck down.
After months of depression and attempted suicide, Grey is approached by the Musk stand-in and offered the spinal AI chip called STEM. The catch is, it hasn’t passed the FDA thumbs up and isn’t legal. Grey has to never let anyone know he can walk again. He agrees and before long, STEM has started to work and Grey can walk again.
When Grey starts looking at some drone footage of the night his wife was killed, he hears STEM speak to him in his mind. STEM can do far more than just help Grey walk. STEM is an advanced AI that can control Grey’s body. More than that, STEM can help him find the people who murdered his wife.
Whenever STEM takes complete control of Grey’s body, bad things happen. STEM has no problems, and no moral hang-ups, with inflicting extreme violence and it is superb.
Grey and STEM go all out for revenge, avoiding cops and keeping up the illusion that Grey is still paralyzed. It is a hell of a violent and bloody thrill, with a blood-chilling ending that is ultra-dark. Just what you want from a cyberpunk story.
Upgrade was written and directed by written and directed by Leigh Whannell (Dead Silence, Insidious) and was described by critics as The Six Million Dollar Man meets Death Wish. Whannell wrote the first draft at least six years before making the film. He shot it in his hometown of Melbourne, Australia.
Whannell always intended the movie to be standalone. When you see the ending you will understand why. However, after the great reception the movie got producer Jason Blum said he had plans for a potential sequel, with Whannell saying:
“I loved making that film, so I’d love to do it with a bit more money.”
Who knows. Maybe one day we will get a sequel. A TV series based on the movie has also been rumored to be in development. In the meantime, if you haven’t seen this you really should check it out. It is a great movie. A tight thriller that packs a punch. I give it my highest recommendation.
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