Netflix movie of the day: Upgrade is the cyberpunk-action antidote to boring streaming action movies

Logan Marshall-Green in Upgrade
(Image credit: Blumhouse / Universal Pictures)
Movie of the day

Every day, we cut through the bottomless list of streaming options and recommend something to watch. See all our Netflix movie of the day picks, or our Prime Video movie of the day choices.

The type of movie I miss more than anything else from the current mainstream cinema landscape is genre-based action thrillers. Okay, actually it's legal dramas, but genre action is a close second. TerminatorRobocopPredator… visually interesting and gripping films that build on underlying themes, made by directors with more ambition than resources, and that are better as a result. Upgrade is one of these movies. With slick, tense direction from Saw and Insidious writer Leigh Whannel, it's inventive in a way that actually ties into what the movie's about, and is a modern action icon, in my opinion, deserving to be among the best Netflix movies.

Upgrade Trailer - (Universal Pictures) HD - YouTube Upgrade Trailer - (Universal Pictures) HD - YouTube
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Upgrade is set in a world by technological augmentation of the human body is become more common. The appropriately named Grey Trace (Logan Marshall-Green) and his wife are attacked following a car crash, and Grey is paralyzed after being shot in the neck – but is offered the chance to walk again by implanting STEM, a brain-connected computer chip. When the police fail to catch his attackers, Grey decides to hunt them down himself… and STEM starts talking to him, offering to help. In fact, Grey can opt to allow STEM to take over full control of his body at times, which turns him into a brutal killing machine.

These scenes are incredible: Whannel locks the orientation of the camera to Grey's head, so we're not following the flow of action in any kind of traditional sense. Instead, Grey's head is always upright, even when he's being flipped and thrown around. It's a way of putting us in the perspective of STEM – a unique demonstration of mechanical order at the center of the chaos. We are stable with the near-robotic Grey, while the world around is being beaten back into order.

The plot is a good ol'-fashioned twisty mystery, so I won't go further into it, but it's definitely worth watching for that as well as the ultra-stylish cinematography, and it gets deliciously dark.

In a world where the best streaming services keep delivering us very expensive action movies that slide right off the brain (would you have ever thought about Netflix's own The Gray Man again if I hadn't brought it up here?), Upgrade is instantly memorable. 

Years after I first saw, multiple iconic shots and its final twists are etched right in my mind, just like they were the first time I saw Predator or Robocop – and we need space for movies to be like that again. And my saying this has nothing to do with the chip they recently put in my brain, I don't know why you would even bring that up.

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Matt Bolton
Managing Editor, Entertainment

Matt is TechRadar's Managing Editor for Entertainment, meaning he's in charge of persuading our team of writers and reviewers to watch the latest TV shows and movies on gorgeous TVs and listen to fantastic speakers and headphones. It's a tough task, as you can imagine. Matt has over a decade of experience in tech publishing, and previously ran the TV & audio coverage for our colleagues at, and before that he edited T3 magazine. During his career, he's also contributed to places as varied as Creative Bloq, PC Gamer, PetsRadar, MacLife, and Edge. TV and movie nerdism is his speciality, and he goes to the cinema three times a week. He's always happy to explain the virtues of Dolby Vision over a drink, but he might need to use props, like he's explaining the offside rule.