Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Leigh Whannell|
|Written by||Leigh Whannell|
|Music by||Jed Palmer|
|Edited by||Andy Canny|
|Box office||$15.5 million|
Upgrade is a 2018 science fiction action body horror film written and directed by Leigh Whannell. It stars Logan Marshall-Green, Betty Gabriel, and Harrison Gilbertson. The film follows a man who is implanted with a chip that allows him to control his body after a mugging leaves him paralyzed. The film was produced by Jason Blum, under his Blumhouse Productions banner.
After premiering on 10 March 2018 at South by Southwest, the film was released on 1 June 2018 in the United States by OTL Releasing and Blumhouse Tilt, and on 14 June 2018 in Australia. The film received positive reviews from critics, who called it "one part The Six Million Dollar Man, one part Death Wish revenge fantasy", and praised the film's dark humor and action sequences.
Grey Trace, a stay-at-home mechanic, lives with his wife Asha who works for Cobolt, one of the companies contributing to an increase in human-computer augmentations in a near-future world. One day, Grey asks Asha to help him return a refurbished car to his client Eron Keen, a famous tech innovator in charge of a rival company called Vessel. While visiting his home, Eron reveals his latest creation, an AI chip called STEM that can serve as an auxiliary brain.
On their way home, Grey and Asha's self-driving car malfunctions and crashes at a homeless camp. Four unknown men then arrive, shooting Asha in the stomach and Grey in the neck, severing his spinal cord. Grey watches helplessly as Asha bleeds to death next to him.
Grey returns home months later as a wheelchair-bound quadriplegic, now under the care of his mother Pamela. Asha's death and the inability of Det. Cortez, who had been assigned to her case, to identify their attackers has caused Grey to sink into an intense depression. After a failed suicide attempt by overdosing on medication, he is visited by Eron, who offers to surgically implant STEM into Grey's spine and restore motor functions to his body. Though Grey is initially resistant, Eron successfully persuades him to undergo the surgery.
Grey goes through with the surgery and regains control of his limbs faster than expected. Eron then has Grey sign a non-disclosure agreement to conceal STEM from everyone, including the police, and pretend to still be paralyzed when in public. While looking through case files on his wife's murder that night, Grey hears STEM speak into his mind. STEM says it can help Grey get revenge and quickly identifies one of the assailants, a local man named Serk Brantner, from a drone video feed. STEM also discovers that Serk and the assailants had modified guns implanted into their arms, explaining why police were unable to identify a murder weapon. Grey decides to investigate Serk personally.
Grey breaks into Serk's home and discovers he was "upgraded" as a result of a secret military experiment, which connects him and another assailant to a local bar called the Old Bones. Serk then returns home and discovers Grey, leading to a fight between the two. As Serk begins to overpower Grey, STEM convinces Grey to temporarily give up control of his body. Under STEM's direction, Grey becomes a lethally efficient fighting machine, killing Serk with little effort. Though they attempt to cover their tracks, Det. Cortez sees drone footage of Grey approaching Serk's house before the murder. However, she lacks evidence connecting Grey to Serk's murder, or proof that he is capable of assaulting a person given his quadriplegic condition.
Eron learns what happened by tracking STEM's movements and berates Grey for his vigilantism. Grey reveals STEM is speaking to him, which surprises Eron, who demands that Grey stop any further investigation. Nonetheless, Grey proceeds to the Old Bones and finds the next assailant (Tolan). With STEM's aid, Grey easily overpowers him. Although initially squeamish, Grey allows STEM to torture Tolan to death, but not before getting the name of the assailants' ringleader, Fisk Brantner. While leaving the bar, Grey collapses onto the ground. STEM informs Grey that Eron is attempting to shut them down remotely and directs him to a hacker nearby who can sever Eron's connection.
After an arduous struggle, Grey finds the hacker, Jamie, who manages to remove STEM's input guard. Jamie then abandons them upon realizing they've been followed by the assailants and two armed Vessel employees. Fisk kills the Vessel employees while Grey, with STEM's control restored, murders Fisk's companion, Jeffries.
Grey returns home only for Pamela to discover him walking about, forcing him to reveal STEM's existence. Det. Cortez then arrives to interrogate them after finding Grey's wheelchair suspiciously abandoned at the Old Bones. Unable to get either of them to confess, she leaves after discreetly planting a listening device on Grey's jacket. Exhausted and broken up over the murders he has committed, Grey wishes to give up. STEM refuses, telling Grey that unless they deal with Fisk, he will eventually track them down and kill them. Demonstrating that without Eron's input guards, it no longer needs to obey Grey's commands, STEM then forces Grey to leave the house to hunt down Fisk. While driving, they discover Det. Cortez's listening device and spot her car chasing after them. STEM then causes an automated car to malfunction and crash into hers so they can escape. Det. Cortez returns to Grey's home shortly after, where Pamela reveals the truth about STEM.
Grey and STEM eventually find Fisk, threatening him at gunpoint to reveal why he killed Asha. Fisk reveals he was only hired to paralyze Grey so he could be implanted with STEM. Grey then attacks Fisk, who is so upgraded that he can outpace Grey's movements. STEM begs Grey to come up with some distraction, whereupon Grey taunts Fisk with the death of his brother. The emotional strain is enough for STEM to gain the upper hand and kill Fisk. Grey then searches Fisk's phone and discovers a message from Eron, suggesting he'd orchestrated the events to make Grey the ideal test subject for STEM.
Grey proceeds to storm Eron's home, killing all personnel in his path. Coming face-to-face with Eron, Grey is held at gunpoint by Det. Cortez before further action could be taken. At this point, Eron confesses how STEM forced him to do it's bidding, having long since come to dominate all aspects of Eron's life, including his business, in pursuit of its goal to become human. Learned of Grey's aversion to technology and lack of augmentation, it engineered the series of events, from the car crash to Eron persuading Grey into undergoing the surgical procedure, all to acquire his body. After revealing its plan, STEM kills Eron and attempts to kill Det. Cortez. In a desperate effort, Grey fights STEM for control over his body. Wrestling enough control to force his arm to his neck, Grey attempts to shoot himself.
Grey wakes up in a hospital room, in full control of his body. He's greeted by Asha who explains how he had been unconscious for a few days following their car crash. Grey finds comfort in knowing the ordeal of the past few days were just a bad dream. In reality, Grey had failed to take control and is still in Eron's home with Det. Cortez desperately attempting to communicate with him. STEM, now speaking through Grey's body, states to Det. Cortez that Grey is "not here anymore"; the psychological strain (coupled with days of sleeplessness and constant activity) overexerted Grey's mind, causing it to break. This was STEM's objective all along as this allowed it to assume complete control over Grey's body. Grey's consciousness is placed into an idyllic dream state within his own mind where he can live out the rest of his existence peacefully. With its goal achieved, STEM shoots Det. Cortez and leaves into society with its new body.
- Logan Marshall-Green as Grey Trace
- Betty Gabriel as Cortez
- Harrison Gilbertson as Eron Keen
- Melanie Vallejo as Asha Trace
- Benedict Hardie as Fisk Brantner
- Linda Cropper as Pamela Trace
- Simon Maiden as STEM (voice)
- Christopher Kirby as Tolan
- Clayton Jacobson as Manny
- Sachin Joab as Dr. Bhatia
- Michael M. Foster as Jeffries
- Richard Cawthorne as Serk Brantner
- Kai Bradley as Jamie
This section needs expansion. You can help by adding to it. (June 2018)
After premiering on 10 March 2018 at South by Southwest and winning the Midnighters Award, the film was released on 1 June in the United States, and 14 June in Australia by Blumhouse Tilt.
In the United States, Upgrade was released on 1 June 2018, alongside Adrift and Action Point, and was projected to gross around $3 million from 1,457 theaters in its opening weekend. It ended up debuting slightly above estimates with $4.6 million and finished sixth at the box office. It was the second best opening for a BH Tilt film, after The Darkness' $4.95 million in 2016. It made $2.2 million in its second weekend, finishing ninth.
On review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 87% based on 143 reviews, and an average rating of 7.2/10. The website's critical consensus reads, "Like its augmented protagonist, Upgrade's old-fashioned innards get a high-tech boost – one made even more powerful thanks to sharp humor and a solidly well-told story." On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 67 out of 100, based on 33 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews". Audiences polled by PostTrak gave the film a 78% overall positive score and a 46% "definite recommend".
In The Sunday Times (UK) Ed Potton muses, "apart from a few flimsy special effects ... this is a satire that cleaves dangerously close to reality at times." Emily Yoshida, writing for New York magazine's blog Vulture, said, "A great and grimy little screw-turner of sci-fi schlock, the kind that they truly don't make anymore, the kind that would make Carpenter and Cameron proud." On the other hand, Charles Bramesco of The Guardian said, "While Whannell wrestles with warring desires to fret over the techno oblivion we’re hurtling towards or have a laugh about it, that conflict manifests in a disappointing tonal clash that robs the film of the low-rent fun it could be having."
|Award||Date of ceremony||Category||Recipient(s)||Result||Ref(s)|
|SXSW Film Awards||13 March 2018||Audience Award – Midnighters||Leigh Whannell||Won|||
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