‘Wounds’ Review: An Armie Hammer Showcase with a Swing and Miss Ending | Sundance 2019

     January 31, 2019

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Just because a movie doesn’t end the way you hope, doesn’t mean the entire thing is an utter failure, but sometimes that big finish is such an outrageous swing and egregious miss, that it completely changes the way you look at the entire experience. So is the case with Babak Anvari‘s head-scratcher Wounds.

Armie Hammer leads as Will, a New Orleans bartender. It’s a typical night at Rosie’s with Will serving some regulars but then a group of underage college kids walk in. Will cuts them a break, serves them some beers and lets them stay. When a fight breaks out and the cops are called, the kids make a swift exit but amidst the chaos, one leaves her cell phone behind. Will takes the phone home with plans to bring it back to the bar the next day, but after receiving a string of bizarre and disturbing text messages, Will and his girlfriend Carrie (Dakota Johnson) become completely consumed by the mystery at hand.

Wounds starts off strong. The movie opens with a lengthy scene at Rosie’s where we get to settle in by seeing Will in his element. Minus the decision to serve minors, he seems like a decent, charming guy but it quickly becomes clear that he isn’t a “save the day” hero. From there Wounds starts to reveal the layers of its mystery, and they’re downright riveting. The progression of text messages and images become increasingly sinister, and the situation becomes more and more intoxicating as the movie grows darker. Anvari and his team use quick cuts to violent, highly unsettling visuals and also bold stingers in the sound mix to great effect, keeping you firmly on edge, nervously awaiting the next threat to Will and Carrie.

Armie Hammer’s talent seems fairly widely known at this point, but he’s so good in Wounds it feels well worth repeating; he really is an extraordinary lead. It’s truly shocking how quickly he loses himself in this role an then continues to pour every ounce of himself into it as Will experiences his vulnerable, downward spiral. Wounds calls for the viewer to play along and attempt to put the pieces together right along with Will, and Hammer’s highly engaging performance is key to making that happen, while evoking an added frustration that comes with the fact that Will is clearly helpless.

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Image via Sundance

He also has a ton of chemistry with Zazie Beetz. She plays Alicia, his ex and close friend, and Will is caught between still having feelings for her but also filling the role of supportive best friend. It’s an appealing relationship that feels like it’s got a significant amount of history behind it, and Beetz also has this wildly captivity, natural on-screen presence that breathes so much life and energy into her character. Johnson, on the other hand, is in a bit of a tight spot with this role. She’s so soft-spoken and blasé that Carrie comes across as quite dull. Given Will’s feelings for Alicia, it makes sense that he doesn’t appear to be as madly in love with Carrie, but Johnson is so cold in her scenes it’s tough to imagine why Will and Carrie got together to begin with.

That disconnect does suck some of the energy out of Wounds as the film frequently cuts back to Carrie at their home doing her own detective work, but the more devastating problem with Wounds is its ending. I’m going to steer clear of specifics and major spoilers but if you’d rather know nothing at all about the way Wounds wraps up, you might want to stop reading here. But it does feel necessary to address the conclusion given the fact that I suspect it’s something that will heavily influence overall feelings on the film.

Mysterious endings can be highly effective, especially when they send you out the door considering and reconsidering what just happened. Wounds does just that, but the ending is so out of left field and unsupported that the whole story unravels the more you think about it. It’s a shocking conclusion that will be tough to shake, but what’s the point in something like that if the rest of the experience caves under the weight of an ending that seems so out of touch with the rest of the movie? The entertainment value is there and Wounds most certainly had my attention most of the way through, but the swing and miss ending makes it tough to recommend.

Grade: C+

Wounds does not currently have a release date.

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