Sundance Review: WOUNDS - Armie Hammer Goes HAM

Meet the REAL Papa Roach.

Wounds is one of those movies where the premise is the entire plot, which makes it difficult to explain ahead of time without spoiling anything. The really really short version is Armie Hammer plays a cool but wholly irresponsible bartender in a very shitty bar who finds a cell phone left by a young patron. Before he can return that phone, it begins receiving text messages somehow directed toward him, begging him for help. This opens the door for rising insanity that doesn’t let up until the final credits hit.

Cockroaches, slashed faces, alcohol, possessed websites, bar fights… Wounds kind of has everything. As it progresses, a kind of nightmare logic takes the film over, which is to say logic starts failing out and you can lose yourself trying to make sense of it all. The better tact is to sit back and let the weirdness wash over you. Director Babak Anvari (Under the Shadow) has loaded this film with gross, nightmarish visuals that keep it from ever being boring.

Also keeping the film from boredom: Armie Hammer. While surrounded by a sound supporting cast (Dakota Johnson, Deadpool 2’s Zazie Beetz) this is 100% the Armie Hammer show, and he goes totally nuts with it. The film’s real thematic story focuses on what an empty jerk he is, something hidden through charm at first but opened wide as insanity takes over his life. Hammer is fun throughout, but once things get manic he really shines. I know he has a lot of fans out there. Wounds should make them all pretty happy.

Unless they can’t deal with horror, that is. Like I said above, there are some icky bits to this one. There isn’t a whole lot in terms of direct violence, more just nightmarish imagery run amok. Wounds is somewhat reminiscent of last year’s Hereditary when it comes to just raw, unsettling imagery.

It’s also similar to Hereditary in the sense that you may find yourself giggling once or twice. This won’t be the case with every viewer, but there is a definite line of camp running through the film, particularly thanks to Hammer’s manic performance. The last shot will undoubtedly make whole theaters snort in disbelief. 

But that’s also the fun of Wounds! It’s a crazy movie, and not everyone is going to enjoy it. I had a blast, however. It’s wild and gross and latches onto a central performance that is a lot of fun. Best of all, you truly never know where it will go from one scene to the next (which is part of why I’ve been so shy about details in this review). It’s a weird surprise from beginning to end. Maybe Wounds doesn’t all add up narratively, but I’ll take that trade when the nightmare is this entertaining.