Venom In The Shell: Spoiler Free “Upgrade” Review

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The problem with your generation is you damn serial killers and your new-fangled technology!

Tremendous loss is a cage too many people find themselves in. You feel hopeless. Weak. Desperate to give up with no way out. Having something like a person or a body part taken away from you can feel like losing a part of your soul, especially if those things in some way have shaped your ability to express your inner truth.

As I watched director Leigh Whannell and actor Logan Marshall-Green’s presentation of the main character, I couldn’t help but be curious as to how well military service members who have lost parts of their body in traumatic situations would relate to this feeling of hopelessness. And then another scene happened that hit me personally, after which I realized, “Oh. This is for ANYONE who has ever lost ANYTHING dear to them.”

And then he gets the implant and hot damn hit the gas! The blood-soaked road we cringe and cheer on is supported by a strong foundation of subtly woven thoughtful relevant subjects: our relationship to technology, our relationship to physical and emotional vulnerability, and our relationship to change. Maybe you can even find more.

Also, kitchen utensils are fucking dangerous.

The intelligent hands of a wise sociologist punch you violently over and over as The Six-Million Dollar John Wick pushes onward into his secret revenge journey. The cinematography by Stefan Duscio is spellbinding. The camera dares to move in ways that would look awful in lesser hands but here, its inspiring. The lighting, the use of color, the blocking, everything looks and feels so damn good it makes you wonder why movies made for over 6 million dollars even exist.

I know, I know. We’ve seen revenge movies before. “I read the plot and I’ve already been to that ballpark plenty of times”. But you’ve never played the game like this. “Upgrade” is so powerful that it doesn’t even matter to me that our hero is noticeably the most well-developed character in the film. Hey! I said “Most”. Not “Only”.

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Yes, Melanie Vallejo gets “fridged” but with what time we did have with her, she never felt one dimensional to me. She felt like a fully realized person. With that said, I guess I’m a sucker for evil twinks because even though Harrison Gilbertson’s role as Eron Keen offers nothing but “I’m the bad guy”, he commits to it so damn well that I don’t care. Betty Gabriel as Detective Cortez is probably the least emotionally explored character in the cast, but then again, does she need to be explored? She does a cunning job at portraying a force of justice that in other films would have been dumbed down to make the protagonist look better. Stay out of this woman’s way! Benedict Hardie is menacing as a villain and in some ways can be read as a subtle allegory for certain political and social leaders who have emerged recently. Simon Maiden as Techno-Venom I mean “STEM” is a voice of haunting power and comedic relief. Whoever had the idea to put his voice in surround sound, thank you! Seeing it in theaters makes you feel like STEM is in your head as well.

Last thing: Body Language.

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The body movements by Mr. Marshall-Green as a possessed Donnie Yen cyborg are so damn on point it deserved its own section in the review. The differences in movement between pre-possession, post-possession, and wheelchair-bound head movements were so well executed that I found myself hyper focusing on fast paced fight scenes trying to find even the slightest point where his body flow continuity was interrupted; Not. Once. I couldn’t believe how dedicated this actor was to portraying such acutely accurate motions.

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This was a fun and powerful ride that left my broken heart pumping and my mind thinking. Please, support this movie. Show Big-Budget Hollywood the power and importance of low/mid-range budget films. Show them that great camera work, great acting, great writing, and great choreography can bring as much financial profit returns as any other general audience block buster. Let’s inspire other filmmakers and storytellers to believe that skill still matters as much as flash. Blumhouse Productions is just makin’ everybody look stupid at this point.

9/10 – Imma think twice about getting that new app.

P.S.
Hugh Jackman’s claws can rest in peace. #Logan4Logan

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