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Review: Wounds (Sundance)

Wounds (Sundance)
5 10

PLOT: Will (Armie Hammer), a New Orleans bartender, witnesses an act of violence that sends him down a rabbit hole of discovery, putting his very sanity, and that of his girlfriend, Carrie (Dakota Johnson), on the line.

REVIEW: WOUNDS, which comes from Babak Anvari, the director of the amazing UNDER THE SHADOW, was one of the more frustrating films I saw at Sundance this year. A star-studded Annapurna production that looks like it had a healthy budget, it had the potential to be a unique, genre-bending thriller, and certainly, the first two acts make you think that’s what you’re watching. But then, it all comes together in such an anti-climatic way you realize that for all the set-up, WOUNDS amounts to almost nothing despite some nice stylistic flourishes.

Certainly, star Armie Hammer seems game to stretch, even if he’s perhaps the world’s most glamourous bartender. He deserves credit for subverting the stereotype he seems to fit, playing Will as big and brash, but quite cowardly and free of any sense of gumption when it comes down to it. This is singled out early on when, during a violent brawl, the guy who he deems a wimpy intellectual (and his romantic rival for Zazie Beetz’s character) is the one to step in and prevent serious bloodshed, while Will does nothing. He’s a straw man, and in some ways, it’s a daring role for him to take.

In fact, for a good chunk of the film, I was thinking this would be Armie Hammer’s VIDEODROME, with it having some similarities. Anvari, who also wrote the screenplay, has Will discover a cellphone full of grotesque imagery and snuff films, content him and his girlfriend become obsessed with, something that begins to manifest itself physically. Alas, WOUNDS doesn’t have the substance of Cronenberg, so it all falls apart despite Hammer’s best efforts.

What’s puzzling is how Dakota Johnson wound up in the film, playing the utterly thankless role of Will’s often-cheated on girlfriend. She has almost nothing to do at all, save for one interesting confrontation late in the film where she gives Will a great dressing down. The better female role here goes to Zazie Beetz as Will’s favorite customer, and the one he’s desperate to hook up with, despite the fact that, unlike Will, she’s a loyal partner.

As far as the horror aspect goes, WOUNDS has some nicely grotesque imagery, with cockroaches being the big creepy selling point, although the gore is nothing you haven’t seen before. The whole premise of Will finding the cellphone and the otherworldly aspect feels derivative. It's just a watered down version of something you’ve seen done a lot better before. WOUNDS is not unwatchable, but it’s a major let down, especially considering the quality of Anvari’s other work.

Source: JoBlo.com

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