Freyr’s review published on Letterboxd:
Though I'm a fan of a number of Whannell's films and I liked Logan Marshall-Green in The Invitation, I honestly hadn't paid any attention to Upgrade leading up to its release. The title became a bit of a joke in my house as we repeatedly forgot what it was going in, and the best that I could describe it to my room mate was "I thought it was a Venom trailer but it turned out Venom was a chip instead". After seeing some positive rumblings about it though, and having MoviePass and a free evening, we went ahead and gave it a shot. So of course it turned out to be one of the most fun movies I've seen all year.
Whannell's horror leanings are evident in some of the darker aspects of the plot, as well as the surprising but absolutely welcome gore effects. I'd heard that the movie got pretty violent, but was still surprised how far they took it. We all loved them, of course; great effects that are only played down in a few kills. The set design and lighting were also really crisp and stylish, and frame said gore in some very enjoyable ways.
It's a very visually striking film, which is perhaps its strongest aspect; and the camerawork is undoubtedly the shining star in that regard. Super stylish, with tons of interesting effects, most notable a gyroscopic manner of movement that is most prominent in the action scenes. The way the camera shakes and twists with every one of Marshall-Green's movements adds a ton of flavor to the action and makes the choreography feel extra crisp. There are a few distinct shots of the camera following his walking that I really enjoyed. It's just so satisfying to watch. Just a quick note, but I also dug the pulsing, industrial sound of the score. Clicked very well with the setting and style.
The performances are mostly solid all around, some a bit hammy but frankly the dialogue leans into that. Whannell's dialogue isn't the best, I won't sugarcoat it. Heavy handed and corny at times, it makes the beginning of the film particularly feel a bit stiff. But there are some solid jokes in it regardless, and the plot is fun. There is a Saw level twist ending that is just...well, it's absurd but hard not to enjoy how much it aims to get you. But as far as performances go, the standout is Marshall-Green's physical performance. He conveys some great emotion in a few of the earlier scenes, and goes on to really sell the unnatural nature of his movement in the choreography and scenes where the chip controls him. The way every movement is robotic and exaggerated, while his head and face respond differently. It's the kind of thing that could be very cheesy but he manages to sell it
So really, the dialogue is probably my main technical gripe, while my other slight turn off is the ending, which I felt leaned back into the Whannell's horror foundation, versus the action/comedy vibe of this film. It gets a bit dark and somber I felt, though it wraps things up pretty satisfyingly either way. For what it is worth, my co-viewers didn't feel the same and really liked the ending, so your mileage will vary.
Anyway you slice it though, I had a blast watching this movie. Stylish, creative, and loads of fun. Glad I decided to go ahead and give it a shot despite sleeping on the idea leading up to it.
Also, walking out of it I thought to myself that this would make a fantastic double feature pick alongside The Guest.