Parents' Guide to

Upgrade

By Michael Ordona, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 17+

Extreme violence in inventive sci-fi actioner.

Movie R 2018 95 minutes
Upgrade Poster Image

A Lot or a Little?

What you will—and won't—find in this movie.

Community Reviews

age 16+

Based on 9 parent reviews

age 17+

Expected a Revenge Tale, Ended Up with a Smart and Chilling Cerebral Tale

I was dying to see Upgrade after its trailer, which promised an exceptionally violent sci-fi revenge film that made up for its small budget with creative camerawork, editing, choreography and some truly inventive gore. This is not what this movie is. Er...actually it IS, but it's also not - let me explain. To avoid spoilers (by just recounting the events from the first 15-20 minutes of the movie), he movie tells the tale of Grey, a simple man in a happy marriage who was tricked, trapped and brutally attacked, resulting in his wife's murder and himself becoming paralyzed. He is then infused with an experimental chip that allows him to function again, but then comes the twist that even the manufacturer didn't seem to realize was a factor: The chip's programs are a fully functional AI in themselves (called 'STEM'), and it begins to help Grey analyze clues as to his wife's murderers. What makes Upgrade somewhat brilliant is two factors. First, for a little bit it seems like a cyberpunk power fantasy, but slowly the words and actions of STEM, while always in Grey's favor, are increasingly difficult to accept and justify, making the story increasingly dark and unsettling. The Second is that the movie plays out as a Mystery and the main twists throughout the Third Act do play largely as you'd expect...but then it reveals that there was additional information it was feeding you, and how this all culminates in the closing minutes results in easily one of my favorite endings I have ever seen, as it's emotionally draining, but thematically PERFECT. I add the 'Too Much Violence' not because I believe that the violence is Too Much, but because I wanted to emphasize that the Violence is very, very extreme. I would never recommend anyone watching this movie below 17, as it features some very heavy themes and sequences, and the violence and gore are very hard-hitting. Genuinely excellent, but purely for an adult audience.
age 16+

Incredible

So. Thr thing about his movie, is where it might pass itself off as anothr scifi action movie, it covers themes that go far deeper. Its incredibly violent and bloody, with a good bit of language, but these help the movie along more than deter it. Definitely suggest that yall watch this.

Is It Any Good?

Our review:
Parents say (9 ):
Kids say (8 ):

This sci-fi/action movie is clever, twisty, and sometimes shockingly violent. Upgrade is, as its name implies, a major step up for writer-director Leigh Whannell (Saw, Insidious). It's well thought-out and funny. It's imaginative. And it's a surprisingly effective mashup of several genres -- superhero (à la Unbreakable), sci-fi (in the neighborhood of The Matrix and Ex Machina), revenge (think Death Wish or The Crow), comedy (All of Me), and horror (more for the gore than anything else). Yet it manages to be its own thing; it takes direction from its influences without being derivative. It's a wild ride with good production values and great stunts.

The performances are also very good for the genre(s). Gilbertson, coming across as a mix of James Dean and David Bowie, is suitably freaky and suspicious as Eron. Simon Maiden's work as the voice of Stem, the implant, is deceptively skillful: The AI is programmed to recite words with a largely unchanging cadence, but Maiden squeezes quite a lot of mileage out of his lines. Gabriel is smart and sympathetic as the cop. But this is Marshall-Green's movie, and it demands a great deal of the actor. He plays an able-bodied person, then a quadriplegic, then a man who's consciously sending commands to a computer to move his body, and then a super-efficient, machine-like fighter and athlete. Like Steve Martin in All of Me, he manages to act while performing physical feats that surprise even him, including struggling against his own body. The emotional demands are also unusual for a genre film. Marshall-Green is up to expressing bliss, deep sorrow, rage, fear, and bewilderment -- all organically and all in context. Those elements, the visceral consequences of Grey's actions, and the extreme gore are more than enough to separate Upgrade from the sci-fi/superhero pack, but the movie is also quite well plotted. There are just enough twists to keep things interesting without straining credulity. For those who can stomach it, Upgrade may prove a pleasant surprise indeed.

Movie Details

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