Bound (1996)
By: Michael McQueen on July 5, 2007  |  Comments  |  Bookmark and Share
Reel DVD (Australia). Region 4, PAL. 1:78:1 (16:9 enhanced). English DD 5.1, English DD 2.0. English Subtitles. 104 minutes
The Movie
Directors The Wachowski Brothers
Starring: Gina Gershon, Jennifer Tilly, Joe Pantoliano, Chris Meloni
Screenplay: The Wachowski Brothers
Music: Don Davis
Tagline: Violet and Corky are making laundry day a very big deal
Country: USA
If there is a lesson that we can learn from watching Bound, it's that everybody has to start somewhere. Larry and Andy Wachowski shot to fame with the commercially successful Matrix trilogy and, more recently, V for Vendetta. Bound was their directorial debut and based on the buzz it generated, the convinced honchos at Warner Bros. signed the duo up to direct their script for The Matrix. Based on the DVD cover of two sexy leather-clad women tied up together, and the promise of high-level sex scenes and violence, I forked out for this movie expecting a lesbionic romp through noir territory; another welcome addition to my ever-growing collection of sleazy movies that no-one will watch with me. The addition of Gina Gershon was particularly influential, as I loved Showgirls and couldn't wait to see what those giant bee-stung lips would get up to during this outing. After sitting through Bound, I emerged slightly disappointed.

Compared with the FX-laden action extravaganza that was the Matrix trilogy, Bound is a much more 'conservative' film, grounded in generic convention and formula, albeit already showcasing the Wachowski's distinctively kinetic directorial style. The plot is assembled around Corky (Gershon), a lesbian ex-con who's out on probation and doing it tough, renovating apartments for a living. Whilst on the job, she runs into Violet (Tilly), who's slutting for the mob and shacked up next-door with highly-strung made man, Caesar (Pantoliano). After a few steamy glances and some poorly-delivered innuendo ("Open it up, tinker with it a little bit and fix it") Corky and Violet are soon comparing tattoos, locking lips and digitally penetrating each other. Their lesbian love affair is getting sticky however, what with Violet being married to the mob and everything. The men aren't having much fun either: Caesar and the boys discover that one of their own has ripped them off to the tune of $2 million and force the guy to talk by cutting his fingers off with secateurs. This is one sadistic display too many for Violet, who decides she wants out. The lovers hatch a scheme to heist the $2 million from Caesar and run off together. Naturally, everything goes pear-shaped when Corky and Violet underestimate Caesar's conniving mind and unbalanced mental state, and soon the lovers are at the centre of a mob massacre and Caesar is starting to get suspicious about his girlfriend.

Bound is one of those films that never lives up to its initial promise. The violence, while sadistic in a mobster kind of way, isn't really imaginative – although all the Wachowski's super-stylised formalism is present; big sweeping camera gestures and 'vhroom' sound effects, angular close-ups and 'Bullet Time' (super-slow motion gun fighting). Most of the script is so wooden it sounds like it was carved on a tree: dialogue between Corky and Violet amounts to little more than cheap innuendo and a few pointless exchanges that substitute for character development. Even worse is the scripting for the mobsters, which sounds like it was culled from 'Mobster Dialogue for Dummies'; how many times can a man say 'capice' in one scene before we believe he's Italian? The plotting isn't exactly revolutionary and fails to extend itself beyond pedestrian formulas: it mostly amounts to a rehash of typical noir/caper films with the added bonus of some lesbian masturbation and some cool whiz-bang cinematic effects thrown into the mix. There are some half-hearted attempts at developing some dramatic tension between the characters, but everything's fairly predictable so these moments never really take off; at best, they feel stilted, as if the Wachowshi's are trying to delay the predictable conclusion and stretch out the running time.

For all the faults on display here, Bound is definitely not all bad. Both actresses look fantastic in this movie: Gershon is a turn-on in all her salacious bee-stung glory, whilst Tilly looks to be a cross between Dita Von Tesse and Bettie Boop. Pantoliano starts off as an annoyingly mundane archetypal mobster, but eventually comes into his own as a wrecking ball of nervous tension and unpredictable violence. Chris Meloni (that guy from Law and Order: SVU) does a great turn as the stereotypical boss's son, channelling Sonny Corleone as an arrogant-but-demented killer with anger issues. The lesbian sex scene is appropriately raunchy, but unfortunately there's only one (aaw), which makes this a triumph of titillation over tits, if you ask me. If there had been more sex it probably would have made up for the predictability of the narrative. As it is, Bound is a predictable genre piece with a steamy lesbian affair thrown in; nothing more or less.
Presented in its original 1:78:1 aspect ratio with 16:9 enhancement, it's easy to see where the Wachowski brothers were going with this: there's an emphasis on shadow and neutrality that was utilised to spectacular effect in The Matrix. However, most of the action in Bound is set in two alternating apartments so the effect has nothing to contrast with and, consequently, the movie tends to look mundane and dull. The transfer is pristine though; not a mark in sight. Strangely enough, I can't help but wonder if maybe a little video-grain might have suited the film a bit more, as the technical perfection of the image tends to underscore the overall lifelessness of the movie.
Both Dolby 2.0 and Digital 5.1 are available here, so if you've got good speakers, rev 'em up.
Extra Features
The only addition in this package is audio commentary by the Wachowski's, with Zach Staenberg, Joe Pantoliano and lesbian Susie Bright, one of the extras in the dyke bar scene who became the 'bedroom consultant' for the sex scenes. While the Wacowski's are typically laid-back and monotonous, Bright contributes some real enthusiasm to the commentary, pointing out all the vagina metaphors and 'hand/sex motifs' and gushing over Gershon and Tilly ("It's so beautiful that she's insider her and they haven't even kissed yet!"). Good stuff.
The Verdict
It's interesting to watch the Wachowski's first project, and particularly to see their already confident technical prowess behind the camera; many of the sweeping gestures and special effects like Bullet Time would make the brothers famous three years later. However, Bound is a triumph of expectation over exploitation and really could have benefited from more sex, if only to make the relationship between Corky and Violet a little more believable or to boost the films profile with some good ol' fashioned controversy. As a flirtation with genre, Bound isn't exactly groundbreaking stuff, but it's still worthy entertainment for a lazy night in with pizza and beer.
Movie Score
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