Man versus Artificial Intelligence (AI). We have always loved it. "Colossus: The Forbin Project", "Ex Machina", "Westworld" (1973), "Star Trek: The Ultimate Computer" (1968), "WarGames" and the entire "Terminator" series... there is something compelling about the concept of computers/robots duking it out with their creators.


Now comes Blumhouse Productions, better known for their horror flicks ("Purge", "Paranormal Activity", "Insidious", "Ouija", "Sinister") but also occasionally cranking out credible products ("Get Out" and "Whiplash") - gets into the act with this Leigh Whannell ("Insidious: Chapter 3") written and directed flick. Sticking top the Blumhouse business model "Make no movie that costs more than $5 million", he has created an acceptable glimpse into the near future.


Logan marshal-Green plays Grey Trace, the old school loving husband of a techno-loving wife (Melanie Vallejo) who is into auto driving cars and the latest bells and whistles. Grey, on the other hand likes to rebuild old muscle cars. Things change quickly when his wife is killed early in the film and he is paralyzed by would be assassins.

He is a quadriplegic until he is given a chance to try out a new brain implant developed by tech mogul Eron (Harrison Gilbertson); the chip is supposed to help Grey gets a little but more use out of his functionless limbs. Naturally, the experiment is a success with Grey getting a surprise amount of mobility.


But when he learns that the police - headed by detective Cortez (Betty Gabriel) - aren't any closer to finding the guys who killed his wife, Grey decides to take things into his own hands. Surprisingly, he finds that his new chip enhanced body can do things he never dreamed of, especially in terms of killing.


But as usual, things aren't what they seem and Grey finds himself losing control of his though process as the chip keeps getting smarter and smarter and more capable. Detective Cortez, on the other hand is starting to put two-and-two together and figuring out Grey is responsible for a string of killings. Eron, stays in the background ostensibly trying to gain control of the chip (called STEM) and Grey.


The production values are rather surprising for the tiny amount spent, though there are a couple of cheesy looking scenes but the story is fun as Marshall-Green's Grey does out-of-this-world stunts with appreciable robotic calm. It's a nifty battle between his human self and STEM with Marshal-Green giving an admirable performance. Gabriel is steady as the investigating cop and Gilbertson is decent as the mysterious (and pale) Eron.


Though it has a mild twist, it is fairly predictable - as human vs AI films go, but the journey is worth the ride and once again Blumhouse moves outside its box for a winner.


"Upgrade" is a nifty sci-fi/thriller that blends A.I. tech concepts with decent acting and gratuitous violence. Director Leigh Whannell, clearly had fun developing this techno actioner for Blumhouse.   -- GRADE B --   GEOFF BURTON