Upgrade

The first time I have saw the trailer for this movie, I was not impressed. Yes sure, it was sci-fi, but it looked cheap, straight for VOD. You know, the ones that try to look glossy and dystopic at the same time, have no real budget so they try to compensate with the mood, camera work and promising acting talent that nobody has heard of, but basically look like that TV movie you saw like 20 years ago. Just go on Netflix and you can find 20 examples within 30 seconds after reaching the SF section. However, I was surprised when the movie actually came out and was declared a sleeping hit. Now that I have seen the movie, I can understand why. This is one of the best cyberpunk films in years! Some spoilers might follow.

In short, the story goes like this: Grey lives in a highly technological world, where people are so plugged in, they literally have physical enhancements. Grey, however, is not into that, he is what you might call, a technophobe. One evening, he and his wife are attacked, she gets killed and Grey is left paralyzed from the neck down. After receiving a very experimental, and not quite legal treatment, in form of a chip implanted in the back of his neck, Grey is fully functional again and goes on a revenge tour. But he gets more than he bargains for, as the chip has a mind of its own.

Now, it has been showed in the trailers as well that during the fight scenes, the chip, named Stem, takes over Grey body and lays waste to every opponent with some very precise and efficient movement. But watching these scenes in the movie, the full scenes I mean, I have to tell you, they are quite something. For one, the fighting employed by the chip is not martial arts, just some very, very efficient moves delivered with strength and speed. Just imagine the terminator bots in brawl fight and you get the idea. Also, the chip has only control of Grey body from the neck down, so the entire time of the fight, Grey is freaked out and horrified of what “he” is doing. Logan Marshall-Green (Grey) is pulling this of beautifully, and I honestly cannot understand how he was able to reconcile both the mechanical precision of the fighting choreography and the more than convincing emotional facial expressions at the same time. Also during these scenes, the filmmakers employed a neat camera trick that kinda underlined that we are watching a computer fighting the humans. Greys head and torso were always in a straight line which was always presented in a vertical position on the screen, even if “Grey” was leaning or dodging something. So while he was moving all over the place, in our perspective, he was still all the time, it was his surrounding that did the moving, rotating. Maybe its sounds silly, but it worked.

I also enjoyed the goons that Grey needs to find and fight. They too are enhanced, even more so than Grey, so the confrontations are not exactly even. And it was it was refreshing to finally see some bad guys with the best toys that did not went to the storm trooper academy of target shooting and actually knew how to use their gear, whether we are talking about various kinds of vision, shotguns implanted in arms or nanobot projectile weapons. All of these are used great skill and make a most satisfying watch. At this point I do have to point out that the movie can get rather gory, but it never goes over the top.

The story is a bit paint by numbers, but it is told in a very neat and focused way. There are no unnecessary subplots or characters. There is a detective in the story, but then again, a crime has been committed, so you would expect one to be there. There is Greys mother, but only for about 2 brief scenes, representing the old life the Grey is leaving behind. Basically, if something/somebody appears on the screen then it has a purpose of being there, it serves the main story, THE story. One more thing I have to give the movie credit for is the ending. I did not saw it coming. The film makers were good at using misdirect and instead of the promised formulaic ending they delivered something entirely fresh, which is quite rare. Another element that was refreshing that we had constant reminders that Grey, now with computer in his neck and super abilities, is not an actual superman. There were moments where Grey is confronted by the fact that he is a quadriplegic and without the chip he is basically helpless and defenseless. I really enjoyed how they kept his vulnerability on his sleeve through the entire movie.

So, yeah, this is definitely one of the best movies of the summer. Right now it is in my top 10 for 2018, although, there is still quite a lot of 2018 left, so we will see if it manages to stick around. Too bad that it went mostly unnoticed, but it has what it takes to become a cult classic. And it did make enough box office to become profitable, so maybe we might even see a sequel, if they crack the story.

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Billionaire Boys Club

Every now and then, you come across a movie that you want to see not because of the movie itself, but because of whatever was tied to the movie and happened behind the cameras or outside of the shooting sets altogether. Billionaire Boys Club is one such movie. Ever since Kevin Spacey has been ousted as a sexual predator and a general creep, he got blacklisted and fired from every project he was involved in. It went so far even, that in the case of All The Money In The World, he was entirely replaced from the movie, only about a month before the premiere, with the movie already in the can. But, as this movie was shot way back in 2015-2016, replacing Spacey was no longer an option. So, this is the first appearance of Spacey on the big screen since the #metoo scandal, and presumably, it will also be his last.






Also, there are these movies that were shot with a lunch money budget and nobody heard about, but if they were to be shot today with the same exact cast, would need a budget of tens of millions of dollars because all the cast members became mainstream talent. Again, Billionaire Boys Club is kinda that movie, having both Ansel Elgort and Taron Egerton in the lead, before each of them got introduced to wider audiences. And to make the picture complete, you also have Emma Roberts and Billie Lourd in the background as supporting cast. So, there is plenty of gravy around this film to make it at least interesting, but is it any good?



In short, God no. The actors are trying, they really are. But there is just so much one can do when the script and the direction are afterthoughts. James Cox, the director, is unable to present the story from visual point of view, therefor he employs narration in both the first and third act of the movie. Now, narration is not a bad thing on its own, but if it is not used effectively, it is more of a lazy crutch that drags the story down. By the way, Cox has also cowrote the script for this, together with Captain Mauzner, who is not a cereal box. Trust me, I looked it up, even though their writing may suggest otherwise. Because the dialogue is laughable and the overall progression of the story is so slow, that it is exhausting. Ansel Elgort’s character changes direction as often as the wind. Now he wants to play by the rules, now he is lying shamelessly to get other people’s money, now he is concerned that he is getting entire life savings and college funds to invest, now he is moving into a luxury house, and so on. And the time between such direction changes are not measured in weeks or days, it can happen during an elevator ride. Also, Elgort only appears to be wearing like 3-4 suits during the entire movie that supposedly covers months. I wasn’t looking if the same is true for the other actors as well, as the camera is mostly on Elgort, but this did stick with me. To be honest, the only palatable thing in the entire movie, interestingly enough, is Kevin Spacey. His character is of villainous nature, and he pulls it off without a sweat, as he did many times before. But then again, he was revealed to be a proper villain in real life too, so I am guessing there was not much acting involved them. He does have a line here that goes like “the truth becomes the best lie”, so one would argue that him being a villain in front of the cameras is more him being himself and whatever he did in public was the acting. Non the less, as soon as the overall story is done with him, the film becomes flavorless.

This movie was supposed to be released in 2017 but it was rescheduled for this year, although, the studio behind it made 0 effort to market it. I saw no trailers for it, no promotion of any kind. The only reason why I even learned of its existence was the news the its opening day box office was only of 126$. That is less than a full row of people in a screening room. But then again, it was only released on 10 screens, and with no publicity. Makes one wonder why it was released in the first place altogether.

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