Armie Hammer, Entertainment, Movies, Sundance 2019, Wounds

‘Wounds’ puts Armie Hammer through the wringer: Review

Dakota Johnson and Armie Hammer in the very creepy Wounds.

Image: Sundance Institute

There’s always been something about Armie Hammer that just seems so easy. He’s a straight white guy who looks like he was created in a lab devoted to perfecting the straight white guy, with the cheekbones of an Avenger, the shoulders of an Abercrombie model, and the confident charm of a fairy-tale prince. 

The best of his onscreen roles have taken advantage of those qualities, turning him into a teenage daydream or a capitalist nightmare. In Wounds, they’re weaponized against him, as his character is forced to reckon with the fact that under his superficially appealing exterior, there’s no there there at all. 

Hammer plays Will, a New Orleans bartender who has no goals and no passions, cares about nothing and no one, and spends most of his days downing beers and flirting with women. Yet he’s managed to glide his way into a comfortable life – steady job, nice apartment, live-in girlfriend – because of course he has. I mean, look at this dude.

That complacency is disrupted one night when he picks up a stranger’s cell phone, and starts receiving disturbing messages. And then the really weird stuff starts to happen. 

Wounds won’t be for everyone. I’m not even entirely sure it’s for me. The narrative jumps from one fright to another without any clear logic, and ends abruptly just as we think we might finally get some answers. The visuals seem heavy with meaning, but the message, if there even is one, seems impossible to decipher. What this movie is about, what it’s trying to do, I couldn’t really tell you.

But it is never boring. Babak Anvari, who directed the unbearably tense Under the Shadow, keeps the dread humming throughout. Strange sounds and unsettling imagery keep the audience off-balance, and a few well-timed jump scares might have you leaping out of your seat. There are pictures that stuck with me even though I still don’t know what they mean, and in some cases even though they’re not particularly strange. (Anyone with a fear of cockroaches will want to stay far away from this one.)

Hammer unravels Will from the inside out, in keeping with a character whose unexamined arrogance is all he has. It’s not a particularly subtle performance, but it is a nuanced one, never missing a step as Will’s self-satisfaction gives way to anxiety and rage. And it’s particularly impressive given how much of this movie is just Hammer freaking out, alone, at a cell phone.

The Will we leave at the end of the film is nothing like the Will we met at the beginning of it, and yet the entire transformation tracks. Unlike Will, Hammer’s done the work, and what he’s delivered is an unnerving look at the dark side of men who look like him – the men who’ve always seemed to have it a little too easy.

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