1996, The Wachowski brothers write and direct their first film, Bound. Their next movies are incredible landmarks in film history, The Matrix series. They also do V for Vendetta and Speed Racer. Bound is worth watching to see where these brothers started. Then add a decent film noir story line, a bit of mystery, and an amazing chemistry between the two female leads; and you have a movie that is pretty darn good.
The film is about Corky (Gina Gershon), an ex-con, rehabbing a condo next door to Caesar (Joe Pantoliano) and Violet (Jennifer Tilly). The film opens with a shot of Corky tied up with a cut on her forehead in the bottom of a closet. There is a jump cut to an elevator scene with a couple where Corky is not injured; clearly the film has moved back in time. The couple is flamboyant, Violet dressed in a leather jacket, short black mini-skirt, stiletto heels, and black stockings (she looks the part of a rental); and Caesar dressed in an expensive suit, and overcoat. There's a clue from the glances at Corky, there will be something sexual between the two women. The walls between the two condos are paper thin, and Corky can't help but hear the groans and pounding next door. The next day Violet apologizes to Corky for the noise, the sexual tension between the two is incredible in this scene; it is a very powerful moment. From here the film takes twists and turns and follows a good film noir path, reminiscent of The Postman Always Rings Twice, most Bogart films, Raymond Chandler, and Dashiell Hammett.
As an historical piece, the start of the Wachowski brother's career, this is an excellent film. The brothers showed amazing talent in this first film, mixing up the timeline without the title crutch (an earlier scene followed by a title that says - 'six days earlier'), using unusual camera angles and powerful framing, understanding pacing, and giving just the right clues to make the mystery work. There was also a passion in this film; the rawness between Corky and Violet was amazing. The brothers handled this relationship rather well.
The performances were surprisingly fine. Jennifer Tilly can be very annoying; she has that high voice that projects dumb. In Bound this is used to a huge advantage, she does sound not so bright, as if she is just a show piece, toy for Caesar; but yet she ends up incredibly intelligent. A little of the Edith Bunker syndrome. There is no denying Jennifer Tilly is stunningly beautiful in this film, the nude scene between her and Gina Gershwin is memorable. Gina Gershon treads the line between butch lesbian and tender woman very nicely. The only moment that doesn't work very well is the shot of her painting the ceiling - there's a bit too much hesitation in the movements, it didn't look natural enough for a real handyman. That aside, her performance was excellent. Joe Pantoliano would, 4 years later, play Ralphie in the Sopranos. He did a good job with this character, a not so bright mob guy. Caesar will seem very familiar to anyone that has seen the Sopranos.
The version I watched was unrated, it is definitely a film for mature audiences. From the director commentary, there is an explicit intimate scene with Jennifer Tilly and Gina Gershon that was cut from or edited for the US release of this film. Oddly the portion cut is a critical story element, and it is unfortunate that Americans had to wait for the DVD to see that moment. That is the only moment of full frontal nudity in the film. There is a strong lesbian thread to the film. Violence is handled rather nicely by the Wachowski brothers. There are some brutal moments in the film, a head slammed into a toilet, several people being shot, fingers being cut off by pruning shears, and blood splatters and spills. Interestingly, not all these moments are shown in full glory, the finger cutting was not shown, but implied. There is a ton of strong language. There was no drug use, except for people drinking liquor and beer. The cover art and descriptions might imply that this film is about bondage, it is not in the literal sense of the term. It is about bondage from a psychological standpoint. This is a mature audience only film.
This version is an hour and forty one minutes. About three quarters of the way through, I found myself doing a little bit of fast forwarding. The story kind of stalled or got a bit repetitive at this point. Maybe the film was 5 minutes too long near the end. There were a couple of scenes earlier in the film that could have been longer. The DVD is sparse; it includes the movie, chapter menu, the trailer, and an alternate audio track with director commentary (which is surprisingly good).
I was very slow to warm up to this film; in fact I thought this was going to be a really bad film. I was pleasantly surprised to find a very good film. It isn't a film for everyone.
Before they braved the cybernetic waters of THE MATRIX, the Wachowski Brothers wrote and directed, a marvelous little undiscovered gem of a film noir thriller about two lesbians double crossing the mob ... and getting away with it BIG TIME! Excellent performances, with a twist of humor, from all involved: Jennifer Tilly, Gina Gershon, and (especially) Joe Pantoliano.
Destined for cult status, this provocative thriller offers a grab bag of genres (gangster movie, comedy, sexy romance, crime caper) and tops it all off with steamy passion between lesbian ex-con Corky (Gina Gershon) and a not-so-ditzy gun moll named Violet (Jennifer Tilly), who meets Corky and immediately tires of her mobster boyfriend (Joe Pantoliano). Desperate to break away from the Mob's influence and live happily ever after, the daring dames hatch a plot to steal $2 million of Mafia money. Their scheme runs into a series of escalating complications, until their very survival depends on split-second timing and criminal ingenuity. Simultaneously violent, funny, and suspenseful,Boundis sure to test your tolerance for bloodshed, but the film is crafted with such undeniable skill that several critics (including Roger Ebert) placed it on their top-ten lists for 1996.--Jeff Shannon