"Upgrade" (R, 1:35) is an action horror sci-fi comedy written and directed by Leigh Whannell, writer of the "Insidious" movies, the early "Saw" films, plus "Dead Silence", and director of "Insidious: Chapter 3". This movie was shot in Australia and Whannell and most of his cast are Australian. However, with the accents and the sets, you wouldn't know the movie wasn't American - and with the (lack of) quality in the last two "Insidious" movies, you wouldn't guess that Whannell was behind this gem of a film.
Grey Trace (Logan Marshall-Green, looking a lot like Tom Hardy) is an "old school" auto mechanic in a near future where intelligent, driverless cars are increasingly commonplace. He's married to Asha (Melanie Vallejo), an employee at a high-tech company. They live in a house that's suitably high-tech as well, operating with voice commands and equipped with a powerful computer embedded in a table top. They're very happy... until one night when they're on their way back from meeting one of Grey's clients, a reclusive computer genius named Eron Keen (Harrison Gilbertson). Their car crashes and they get mugged. Asha is killed and Grey is paralyzed from the neck down, with only his mother to care for him.
Eron visits Grey and offers him the opportunity to regain control of his body, with the help of a neck implant called Stem. The surgery succeeds spectacularly, Grey signs a non-disclosure agreement and heads home, promising that, at least for now, it appears to the world that he's still a quadriplegic. Grey quickly learns that Stem can talk to him (as voiced by Simon Maiden). Given the lack of progress by a police investigator named Cortez (Betty Gabriel), Grey takes advantage of Stem's Alexa-on-steroids capabilities to find the men who killed his wife. Normally not a violent man, Grey finds himself overmatched by these men, who themselves are technologically enhanced, until he learns how Stem can also help him fight. But, alas, avenging his wife's death isn't as satisfying as Grey might've expected.
"Upgrade" is a very appropriate title, given some of the writer-director's mediocre movies - and as a comparison to other films in the AI subgenre. This one is a combination of "Deadpool", "Ex Machina", "Transcendence" and the "Bourne" movies, but still feels fresh and creative, visually and narratively. The occasional comedy comes from the combination of Grey adjusting to having Stem's cells in his brain and some gallows humor as he pursues his wife's killers. The film also features one of the best recent casts you never heard of. The high-quality cinematography, editing, acting, pacing, directing and screenplay (with some late-game twists) makes this one of the most balanced and entertaining movies of 2018. "A"