Release Date(s)1996 (August 28, 2018)
Studio(s)Dino De Laurentiis/Spelling/Gramercy Pictures/Summit (Olive Films Signature Edition)
- Film/Program Grade: A
- Video Grade: A
- Audio Grade: A
- Extras Grade: A-
Though it contains many elements of film noir, Bound introduces a game changer – the main characters are women, with the men merely supporting players. Corky (Gina Gershon), recently released from prison, and Violet (Jennifer Tilly), a moll, notice each other in an elevator. There is an immediate attraction, and soon they begin an affair. Violet has been with gangster Caesar (Joe Pantoliano) for five years and, after witnessing the torture of a man who was foolish enough to steal money from the mob, wants out. The opportunity presents itself when Caesar brings home a suitcase filled with $2 million of the mob’s money. She and Corky hatch a plan to steal it.
The first feature directed by the Wachowski Brothers, Bound is a neo-noir with tough guys, sex, a heist, and constant danger. In traditional noirs of the post-World War II era, a femme fatale often worked her charms to induce a man to plan a murder or robbery, driving him to his ultimate downfall. Bound tosses out that structure and instead makes the relationship between two women who are much sharper than the thugs they intend to outsmart. They recognize discretion and stealth are the keys to getting away with their plan.
The movie builds gradually to a series of crescendos involving violence, confrontations, close calls, and twists, always with a driving energy that keeps the viewer transfixed. The Wachowski brothers’ script is not exactly original (we’ve seen similar heist flicks before), but the treatment is unique. Made on a fairly small budget, the film looks great, with Bill Pope’s photography characterized by deep shadows, oblique angles, extreme close-ups, and odd framing suggesting noirs of the late 40s and early 50s.
Performances are uniformly excellent, with Ms. Tilly and Ms. Gershon shouldering the heavy lifting. Both women convey the bond between their characters through looks and unspoken thoughts.
Joe Pantoliano is impressive as Caesar, a thug who is loyal to the mob and protective of its money even as its theft is plotted under his nose. There are no scenes of affection between Caesar and Violet. He’s gotten used to having her around, gruffly orders her about, and resents her advice. Rather than listen, he lashes out, his macho ego threatened.
Christopher Meloni also gives a standout performance as Johnnie, the hot-headed son of a big-time Mafioso and an integral part of the women’s plot. Violent, smarmy, with an arrogant sense of entitlement because of his connection, he’s no intellectual match for Corky and Violet.
The new high-definition digital restoration on the widescreen Blu-ray release looks great, showcasing Bill Pope’s thoughtful, mood-drenched photography. Contrast and color palette contribute to atmosphere. There are slow dolly shots (door knob, gun) that move into extreme close-ups for dramatic effect. The paper thin walls that separate the apartments of Violet and Corky play an important role as a barrier to things almost but not quite within reach. In one shot, an overhead camera shows Violet and Corky on opposite sides of that wall. A climactic scene involves a long staircase that seems to go on endlessly, its banisters and balusters casting long shadows on the walls.
Both the theatrical and the unrated version of the movie are included. A mere 14 seconds longer, the unrated version adds some graphic moments to the sex scene between Violet and Corky. The optional audio commentary features the Wachowskis; actors Joe Pantoliano, Jennifer Tilly and Gina Gerson; film editor Zach Staenberg; and technical consultant feminist/author Susie Bright.
In the Part and Parcel featurette, Patti Podesta describes her creation of the movie’s title sequence, which required large three-dimensional letters, motion control camera, programmed lighting, and high contrast to connect with the style of graphic novels.
Difference Between You and Me provides a brief overview of post-war film noir and how neo-noir emerged in the 1970s, described as an upheaval period in Hollywood. It claims that Bound legitimizes lesbian sex, emphasizing the similarities between Violet and Corky through costumes, backgrounds, and their mutual desires. The theft plan is workable because it would never occur to the gangsters that women could love each other and would dare to steal their money.
Three separate featurettes focus on the actors and the process of casting – Hail Caesar (Joe Pantoliano), Here’s Johnny! (Christopher Meloni), and Femme Fatales (Jennifer Tilly, Gina Gershon).
The final featurette, Modern Noir: The Sights and Sounds of Bound, deals with the genesis and making of the movie. The Wachowskis didn’t want a typical noir tale. When the lesbian element was added, there were four offers on the open market to produce Bound. Bill Pope (director of photography), Don Davis (composer), and Zach Staenberg (editor) discuss their roles and working relationships with the Wachowskis, who are described as wedded to their concept but amenable to suggestions. Pope and Staenberg had to combine their efforts to achieve smooth, seamless transitions from one shot to the next. Pope speaks about the sex scene in which the camera rotated around the bed as movable walls were hurriedly shifted in and out of place to accommodate the camera’s path.
- Dennis Seuling