(US/Australia - 2018)
Written and directed by Leigh Whannell. Cast: Logan Marshall-Green, Betty Gabriel, Harrison Gilbertson, Melanie Vallejo, Benedict Hardie, Linda Cropper, Richard Cawthorne, Christopher Kirby, Clayton Jacobson, voice of Simon Maiden. (R, 100 mins)
An imaginative take on the revenge thriller, the high-concept UPGRADE wouldn't have been out of place as Vidmark Entertainment title in the new release section of your favorite video store in the early '90s. That's meant as a compliment, as it's a fast, mean, and cynical indictment of our reliance on technology that has a message but doesn't take itself so seriously that it forgets to be entertaining. In other words, it's a B-movie like they used to make. In a vaguely-defined near-future America with self-driving cars, omnipresent surveillance drones, and MINORITY REPORT touch-screens everywhere, proudly blue-collar and stubbornly Luddite mechanic Grey Trace (Logan Marshall-Green) is a man out of his time. He hates technology, still listens to music on vinyl, drinks Budweiser, and refuses to use his wife Asha's (Melanie Vallejo) self-driving, autonomous car. Asha's the primary breadwinner, working for a robotics corporation called Cobalt, but Grey makes some decent money restoring old muscle cars for rich guys with money to burn. Asha is stunned to learn that Grey's latest client is Eron Keen (Harrison Gilbertson), a brilliant and reclusive young tech mogul who owns Vessel, a groundbreaking company whose achievements have far surpassed Cobalt. On the way home from delivering Keen's car, Asha's malfunctions and goes offline, speeding up and crashing until a rescue unit arrives and proceeds to kill Asha and shoot Grey in the back of the neck, leaving him to die.
GET OUT, and with her tough, incredulous Cortez here, it's time for Gabriel to be rewarded with her own movie. Goofy, fast-moving, and ultraviolent, UPGRADE pulls off a lot with a pretty low budget. There's definitely some word-of-mouth sleeper hit potential, not to mention a very probable cult following once it hits streaming and then lands in cable rotation for the next few decades.