Following a mugging in which his wife was killed and he was made a quadriplegic, Grey Trace has an AI chip installed into his neck that makes his seemingly super-human. He then goes after the bad guys who killed his wife and left him for dead.
I knew nothing about this movie but just knew that it was critically acclaimed (Thank you, Rotten Tomatoes) and so rocked up to the screening. I was amazed! This film is fantastic.
Yes, leading actor Logan Marshall-Green looks like Tom Hardy’s twin. Yes, the film’s plot seems eerily close to the storyline of Hardy’s upcoming Venom. Upgrade is a great film and will quite possibly be in my list of the year’s best films.
The action sequences are terrific and theres more of a passing nod to a comic book type vision for the film’s look and feel. Check out the bar that Grey goes to to try to find his wife’s killers.
But there’s also emotional depth here. This is especially seen in the scenes where Grey tries to adopt to life in a wheelchair with his mother taking over the small tasks of everyday life that he could do before the mugging. The scene in which he bursts into tears at his own newly discovered inability is unexpected but very welcome in a futuristic action movie like this. It provides extra layers to a movie that in lesser hands would be more generic fare. He is later seen trying to take an overdose.
Whilst there is gritty action and heartbreaking emotional depth to the film there is also laugh out loud humour also. Check out the scene where Grey fights an adversary with STEM in control for the first time. Marshall-Green’s comic timing is impeccable.
Some of the action sequences end gorily- in fact, very gorily. There was more than one occasion during the screening in which audience members where audibly grossed out at special effects that seem to be straight out of a video nasty. And if you’re a gorehound like me thats a great thing.
In fact, one gore scene reminded me of the left sequence from Drive. There are faint echoes of many other films within Upgrade (including The Matrix, 2001, Scanners, Blade Runner and it’s sequel, Westworld… Hell, it even reminded me of Knight Rider. Yes, it’s that good!) but you never get the feeling that Upgrade if ripping off these ideas and blending them together, hoping the audiences and critics won’t notice. Upgrade feels fresh, original and innovative- because it is.
I missed this when it was first released. However, at the time I saw clips of the fights scenes and the slow mo bullet sequences and was duly impressed. What would i think of the film on first viewing almost 20 years later?
I never lost interest during this film and I can see why it was such a huge hit in 1999. Its heartening when any highly stylised film which isn’t utter base level bilge to take megabucks at the box office.
But heres where The Matrix succeeds brilliantly. It offers mind blowing concepts- but isn’t too deep. It offers striking visuals- which unfortunately quickly became de rigueur as many other films, commercials and pop videos copied this visual style. Not the fault of the filmmakers and as they say, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.
Certain parts of the film feel like a comic book fans fapfest. The costumes assumed by the main protagonists would only be thought cool by basement dwelling geeks. Black PVC, long coats and clumpy boots- a cyberpunk’s wet dream. Soo late 90s.
But this film did dare to take to the masses something original and daring. It succeeded. Fair play especially in these times of stale remakes and turgid reboots. But don’t try to interpret things too deeply. Beneath the surface isn’t a whole lot of depth or substance. Precisely why it was so massive.
The scene need the end where we learn that Neo really is ‘the one’ is one of the most bombastic, unintentionally hilarious sequences in modern cinema. I don’t know if its pure cheese, genius or both. Which is noteworthy in itself.
But for a film that tries to show us what the modern world is really like and what it revolves around I’ll still stick with They Live. A film that accomplishes its mission statement with less gloss, has infinitely more depth, substance and charm and does so on a substantially smaller budget than The Matrix.