A mobster, his mistress and a tough female ex-con are caught in a dangerous plot with over $2 million of the mob’s money at stake in this new, ultra-hip film by the Wachowski Brothers. Starring Academy Award nominee Jennifer Tilly (Liar Liar), Gina Gershon (Face/Off) and Joe Pantoliano (The Fugitive).
eyelights: Gina Gershon. Joe Pantoliano. its twisty, devilish plot. the camera work.
eyesores: its unsubtle score.
“For me, stealing’s always been a lot like sex. The only difference is, I can fuck someone I’ve just met.”
I always liked ‘Bound’, the sexploitation film noir by The Warchowskis before they hit it big with ‘The Matrix‘. Released in 1996, the picture was a box office dud, but it made its name on home video, fueled in part by the promise of Gina Gershon on Jennifer Tilly action.
But ‘Bound’ is a significantly better film than just that: though it dials up the sex right at the onset, climaxing with a scene serving the plot in no way whatsoever, it’s a darkly funny crime thriller that’s ripe with twists and turns. It’s much more than just skin deep.
The picture finds Corky coming out of jail after a five-year stint. A butchy lesbian, she gets a gig painting a condo for a mob boss. As she sets up, she crosses paths with Violet, the neighbour’s moll. They exchange glances, and take immediate interest in one another.
Soon, Violet finds reasons to bump into Corky, and it’s not long before she makes her move. But she has more than sex on her mind: she plans to rob over two million dollars from Caesar, her tempestuous boyfriend, setting up a confrontation between him and his rival.
And she wants Corky to help.
Right from the onset, we see Corky beat and bound in a closet, setting the stage way before the story unfolds; we know that things will not end as expected. Not only that, but it seeds some doubt about Violet’s trustworthiness, leaving us to dissect her every word.
We’re also on edge because of Caesar, who is more unpredictable and dangerous than his smallish frame would lead one to suspect. And he’s gifted with enough intelligence to strategize and out-think his opponents, which is likely why he got into the position he’s in.
Between the two, we don’t know what to expect next. And then The Warchowskis throw in Johnnie, Caesar’s rival and a complete dumb@$$. This guy is a loose cannon – so loose, in fact, that Caesar can’t keep him in check. This keeps throwing lit matches in the powderkeg.
And, yes, it gets explosive.
The Warchowskis, add all sorts of other little developments along the way to make us guess what will come next. At literally every turn, there’s a new risk for Violet and/or Corky. And we all know that Corky ends up in a bad way. It’s all enough to leave us breathless.
It helps that the performances are so strong all around. Though this is a low budget film mostly set in two rooms (heck, it could be a stage play), the actors are so good that we don’t even notice the film’s lack of scope; we’re far too taken by what’s on screen.
For me, the best scene is all dialogue: it’s when Violet brings up the basic idea of setting up Caesar against Johnny. Corky is super smart about it, deconstructing the whole plan and piecing it back together so that it’s flawless. I love seeing her brain at work.
Gina Gershon plays Corky, and I’ve never seen her better. Though I’ve always liked her, she incarnates the classic butchy type quite well, with confidence and total credibility. but she adds to the part a layer of sexiness than transcends sexual orientations.
Jennifer Tilly plays Violet, the fem. She has that infamous breathy, nasal voice that can soften and irritate at once. It’s easy to think of her as an airhead, and it’s her strength here, because it’s clear that Violet is anything but; she’s underestimated.
Joe Pantoliano is on fire as Caesar. I don’t think I’ve seen him better either. He’s sharp like a razor’s edge and brutal like a mace. Though he doesn’t really look the part, he makes it as believable as Joe Pesci did in ‘Goodfellas‘. He’s really terrific here.
The rest of the cast are mostly B-lister, but they’re also quite good. Christopher Meloni is adequately wild-eyed as the erratic Johnny, Richard C. Sarafian is controlling and condescending as Don Marzzone and John Ryan is smart and creepy as Mickey.
The Warchowskis are truly on top of their game here. One gets the impression that they were seeing this as their opportunity to show their stuff and they made the most of it. The camera work is creative, sometimes gimmicky, in a way that proves their talent.
My only reservation about ‘Bound’ is the score by Don Davis, he who made such great work of ‘The Matrix’ series. Here his music is not only derivative, it’s sometimes inappropriate, putting beats when it should be soft or using styles that don’t blend well.
And it doesn’t help that it’s mixed LOUD; you can’t escape it.
But, all told, ‘Bound’ is truly an unsung gem. It mixes sexy and violent both viscerally and emotionally in such a way that it’s impossible to ignore. It essentially a modern film noir, but with a lesbian twist to it. Plus a few more twists along the way.
And such delicious twists they are.
Date of viewing: January 27. 2017