REVIEW: UPGRADE (2018)

MZNJ_New_review

now playing

bars

UPGRADE (2018)

(Remember, clicking the highlighted links brings you to other reviews and articles here at The Movie Madhouse!)

Set in the near future, Upgrade tells the story of vintage car restorer Grey Trace (Logan Marshall-Green), who on the way home from delivering a car to a client with his wife Asha, (Melanie Vallejo) is ambushed by a group of men. They kill Asha and turn Grey into a paraplegic. Paralyzed from the neck down, Grey’s client, billionaire genius Eron Keen (Harrison Gilbertson) offers him a chance at being able to function again. A micro computer called STEM (voiced by Simon Maiden) will be inserted in his spine to bridge the gap between his body and mind. STEM, however, is not just a computer but an A.I. that co-exists with Grey. Now with STEM operating in his head and enhancing his physical abilities, the A.I. begins to help Grey track down those who murdered his wife and make them pay.

Fun 80s style action flick is written and directed by Leigh Whannell, who wrote the first three Saw films, all the Insidious flicks and directed Insidious: Chapter 3. It tells of a future where humans can be enhanced by computers and internal parts, such as the thugs who killed Grey’s wife having their guns built inside their arms. Now enhanced with STEM, mild-mannered Grey can fight like a trained soldier and move like a martial artist. He can also kill with lethal efficiency. It’s an entertaining good time to watch him track down those responsible, all the while being pursued by a cop (Betty Gabriel) who is trying to figure out how a paraplegic is killing the thugs in question one by one. While the film can get silly at times, a bar scene stands out as an example, it’s mostly a fun time well directed and cleverly presented by Whannell, with some intense action and chase sequences and horror movie level gore. On a technical level Whannell accomplishes a lot on his modest budget. The film looks great and has an awesome 80s vibe with colorful cinematography by Stefan Duscio and Jed Palmer’s very 80s electronic score. A fun homage, yet also very contemporary with it’s portrayal of the gap between man and technology becoming smaller and smaller.

The cast are solid. Logan Marshall-Green is convincing as a guy-next-door who becomes a detective and a skilled killer basically overnight. He is fun to watch as he tries to deal with having another intelligence in his head and abilities he’s never had before, not to mention a peaceful man now killing for revenge. He’s very well cast. Simon Maiden is effective as the voice of STEM, who only Grey can hear. He gives the A.I. character. Harrison Gilbertson portrays well the recluse billionaire who is barely out of his teens. He captures the solitude and awkwardness of being a unique individual very effectively. Betty Gabriel is good as Cortez, a cop trying to figure out how these thugs are being murdered when her only suspect is in a wheelchair. Rounding out the leads is Benedict Hardie playing Fisk. He’s basically the lead thug, a former military man now with computer enhancements to make him even more lethal and an equal opponent to the upgraded Grey. It was refreshing that he wasn’t played as a paramilitary tough guy, but almost a nerd that was now equipt to kill and enjoying it. While her screen time is limited, Melanie Vallejo made an impression as Asha and she and Logan Marshall-Green had nice chemistry, so their relationship was believable and the effect of her demise strongly felt.

Overall, this was a fun and clever action movie with a delightfully 80s vibe. Whannell directs well from his own inventive script and accomplishes a lot without a big budget. He has a good cast and if the film has any flaws, it’s that occasionally it veers into silly territory and the end reveal wasn’t that hard to see coming. The action is well choreographed and there is some graphic violence which fits in with it’s 80s feel. A very entertaining and sometimes inventive little movie that works as both 80s homage and contemporary sci-fi thriller.

-MonsterZero NJ

  Rated 3 computer chips.

 

 

 

bars

Advertisements

REVIEW: THE PURGE: ELECTION YEAR (2016)

MZNJ_New_review

now playing

purge election year

bars

THE PURGE: ELECTION YEAR (2016)

(Remember, clicking the highlighted links brings you to other reviews and articles here at The Movie Madhouse!)

The Purge flicks aren’t great movies by any length, but give credit where it is due, the concept is interesting and series writer/director James DeMonaco is trying to do something different with it each installment. After a routine invasion flick first time around and an Escape From New York-ish second installment, we get a third chapter that is more hyper-violent political thriller. The third entry picks up 18 years after pretty Charlie Roan (Elizabeth Mitchell) watched her family brutally murdered during The Purge and now Senator Roan is vying for the presidency and the abolition of the yearly crime spree event. There is growing opposition to The Purge, especially from the poor, whose numbers it’s aimed at thinning and the senator is growing in popularity. The NFFA, who created the blood spattered event, plans to use this very night to end the senator’s campaign against them and now Roan is on the run for her life with only her security chief (a returning Frank Grillo) and a proud local deli owner (Mykelti Williamson) and friends, to protect her during the 12 hour period of murder and mayhem.

Here DeMonaco delivers a more moderately paced political thriller with conspiracy and treachery all around and The Purge itself serving more as a setting than the theme. While not a more straight-up action flick like The Purge: Anarchythere is still plenty of graphic violence and bloodshed and the director does create some unsettling images and sequences along the way. There are some themes he expands on, such as The Purge’s true purpose being to thin the numbers of the lower class to cut down on government welfare expenses and some new concepts, such as “murder tourists” who travel here from foreign countries on the night of The Purge, to get in on the bloody fun and an underground movement run by EMTs and doctors to treat victims. Yes, there are a lot of political, social and racial commentary mixed in here and none of it is any too subtle. It is very heavy handed and obvious and sticks out like a sore thumb, but at least the filmmakers earn a little credit for trying to give all the blood spattering a little substance. There are some problems here, too. As mentioned, the pace is a lot more moderate and it seems longer than it’s 90+ minutes, though never boring. There is also some clunky dialog and poor acting that drag down some scenes, no more evident than in the opening NFFA meeting and scenes involving a tough talking female hood (Brittany Mirabile) who is pretty annoying even with her limited screen time. Add to that, villains that are all a bit bland and we have a third installment that aims high and falls a bit short, though still entertains.

As for the cast, they are fairly serviceable with Grillo once again being a stand-out. He has a strong presence and kicks some ass in the action sequences and is a likable action hero. Elizabeth Mitchell is solid as Roan and while she comes across as sincere and not without strength, her character is reduced to a damsel in distress in the second half. Mykelti Williamson is good as deli owner Joe Dixon. He has a quiet strength and is convincing as a man of a humble lifestyle and a sense of integrity. There is also solid work from Julian Soria as Joe’s employee Marcos and Betty Gabriel as a tough as nails EMT who helps Roan and company evade capture. Our villains, unfortunately are a bit bland, which is partially due to a lack of good development. Kyle Secor is weak as a psychotic minister who is the NFFA’s presidential candidate in opposition to Roan and Terry Serpico is a stereotypical evil mercenary type as a tattooed white supremacist, militant send to collect the pretty blonde senator for her demise.

Overall, the third in this franchise doesn’t really improve greatly on the second entry, but does have some interesting ideas and attempts a little social commentary, though does it bombastically. There is some chilling imagery and some brutal action, but it is delivered at a much more moderate pace. The villains are somewhat weak, though we have a strong and likable batch of underdog heroes in contrast. Doesn’t accomplish all it’s goals, but credit given for trying to add some substance to the gruesome proceedings and allowing it’s theme event to take a backseat to the story and characters.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 bullets.

ex2 rating

 

 

 

bars