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Upgrade (2018) - Blu-ray Review

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Upgrade (2018) - Movie Review

4 stars

What if all this autonomous technology and cybernetic artificial intelligence stuff we’ve so ardently allowed to slowly creep into our lives suddenly went haywire and began crashing cars, recording our conversations, and sending our most private discussions to random people in our contact list? Oh wait, it already has. Well, then, what if a movie came along that showed us exactly how much worse this technology invasion could actually become when left unchecked? We’ve seen that too. But you’ve not seen it depicted as vividly striking and frighteningly brutal as it is in Upgrade. I promise.

The film is an exploration of the idea that we can replace body parts with advanced technology to not only keep someone alive, but to actually make them better – kind of like if The Six Million Dollar Man and Robocop had a love child that they named Ex Machina. It is set in the near future where voice-assisted autonomous vehicles skitter about the sleek futuristic environment, while an all-seeing web of drones scours the countryside, recording and documenting our every move.

When the autonomous vehicle Grey Trace (Logan Marshall-Green) and his wife Asha (Melanie Vallejo) are traveling in goes on the fritz, Grey wakes up months later to discover his wife was killed and he was left a quadriplegic at the hands of a murderous gang. Sadly, dangerous gangs are apparently still a thing in the future.

"While not entirely original in backbone, its skin reveals something quite fresh and unique."

But the promise by a wealthy reclusive millionaire named Eron (Harrison Gilbertson) of a new future with the reclaimed use of his limbs by a spinal chip implant called STEM proves too good to pass up. After all, the police investigation led by Det. Cortez (Get Outs Betty Gabriel) into who committed the horrible crime has stalled and Grey wants the opportunity to solve it himself without the restrictions of a motorized wheelchair. And what could possibly go wrong with an always-on SiriAlexa picc line directly into your neural pathway?

STEM becomes the neural link between Grey’s brain and his broken body. But, as expected, things begin to go crossways when Grey learns that STEM has a mind of its own in addition to a burning mutual desire to help find the men who murdered his wife.

STEM is not only able to heighten Grey’s vision, hearing, and cognitive insight, but it also begins to slowly gain autonomous control of his motor skills. Grey and STEM are supposed to work in harmonious unison, but when needed, STEM can take control – initially, only with permission – and turn its host into a herky-jerky, whirling-dervish of an ass kicker able to dodge bullets, anticipate moves, and otherwise turn a rival into a bloody, pulpy mess. You’ve not seen such disastrously skillful knife work since Cronenberg’s Elliott twins were last practicing their “craft.” STEM has officially taken over. And this is where Upgrade becomes a whole hell of a lot of fun to watch.

Upgrade is written and directed by Leigh Whannell who certainly knows his way around fright and terror having originated the Saw and Insidious franchises. The guy knows the genre and while Upgrade owes more to action, thriller, and sci-fi practicalities than it does horror, he never lets budget – or lack thereof – soil his demented vision. In fact, there’s a delicious B-movie grittiness and grindhouse energy that bleeds all over the proceedings, especially in the film’s final act when Grey cedes total control of his body to STEM. And Grey’s constant snarkiness is always funny and the humor a much appreciated change of pace.

Upgrade (2018) - Movie Review

Stefan Duscio’s innovative camerawork is also worthy of mention as Grey’s super-fast reaction times and martial arts moves click and jerk in super-fast reaction time. The camera often follows his every move as if rigged like a bodycam, and at other times pulls back to let us admire the fast-paced action. Fight choreographer wanna-be’s, play close attention. This is how it’s done.

Whannell knows that much of what he does here rests on the tangible realities and dangers of technology run amok. Dangers that play themselves out daily on TV and in our newsfeeds. And he plays into those concerns with a kinetic ball of furious energy waiting to unwind. And unwind it does. While not entirely original in backbone, its skin reveals something quite fresh and unique.

Though Upgrade occasionally suffers from a few minor glitches in its interface, overall it is a well-programmed piece of cyber-punk diversion.

Plug in and get an upgrade. You won’t be sorry.

Upgrade (2018) - Movie Review

MPAA Rating: R for strong violence, grisly images, and language.
95 mins
: Leigh Whannell
Leigh Whannell
Logan Marshall-Green, Richard Anastasios, Rosco Campbell
: Horror | Action | Sci-fi | Thriller
Not Man. Not Machine. More.
Memorable Movie Quote: "Stem, he's got a knife!"
Theatrical Distributor:
BH Tilt
Official Site:
Release Date:
November 16, 1976
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
August 28, 2018
Synopsis: GREY TRACE, a technophobe in a utopian near-future when computers control nearly everything - from cars to crime-surveillance - is paralyzed in a freak mugging that leaves his wife dead. But when a billionaire technologist offers him an experimental paralysis cure - an implanted computer chip called STEM - Grey finds that the chip has a voice and a mind of its own. Together Grey and STEM embark on a mission to avenge


Blu-ray Details:

Upgrade (2018) - Movie Review


Blu-ray Details:

Home Video Distributor: Universal Studios
Available on Blu-ray - August 28, 2018
Screen Formats: 2.40:1
Subtitles: English SDH; French; Spanish
Audio: English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1; French: DTS 5.1; Spanish: DTS 5.1
Discs: Blu-ray Disc; Single disc; Digital copy; Movies Anywhere
Region Encoding: Region-free playback

Universal’s 1080p HD handling of this movie is fantastic! The images on the 1080p transfer using the AVC MPEG-4 codec are presented in the 2.39:1 aspect ratio of its original release and absolutely explode with a crispness that is pushed to the max. The tones are natural and amped up on saturation and dark tones. The dark tones are important and with this release they are dark and natural; effective in creating a sense of disturbing moodiness. The Blu-ray is presented in DTS-HD 5.1 lossless Master Audio and contains a good mix of levels for multiple channels requiring no tweaking from its audience in order for dialogue to be heard. Overall, a standout HD release.



• None

Special Features:

This is destined to become a cult classic.  There are no supplemental items, though.

Upgrade (2018) - Movie Review

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