Bound (1996)

Own it!

review by Scott Hamilton and Chris Holland
See also:

Things to Do In Denver When You're Dead

Picasso Trigger

Cruel Intentions 2


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Our rating: four LAVA® motion lamps.

Although the words "Dino De Laurentiis Presents" usually indicate imminent pain caused by cinematic trauma, Bound is actually one of the best movies we've seen in some time. Violent, suspenseful, and funny, Bound is a welcome relief from the usual mob-caper movie.

Gershon (right) and Tilly.
When Bound first hit theaters, it was treated to a lot of brouhaha over its main protagonists -- two women in love with one another. In reality, the lesbianism factor is a small one. Sure, there are some steamy sex scenes, but mostly the relationship between these two women is an opportunity for a joke or a subtle twist on one movie formula or another. There's nothing here in terms of the larger plot that couldn't have been done with a man and a woman in love, but the fact that it's Jennifer Tilly and Gina Gershon makes the story more fun. The two women share a camaraderie that would be difficult to establish between a more traditional movie couple, even though the film constantly makes you question that bond.

That said, it should be pointed out that this lesbian couple is the least shocking thing about Bound. Once Corky (Gershon) and Violet (Tilly) get together, the intrigue really begins. Corky is the new handyman (handyperson?) for the apartment building in which Violet lives with her middle-management Mafioso boyfriend, Ceasar (and yes, that's the correct spelling). Violet is growing tired of the Mafia life: their apartment bathroom is occasionally used as an interrogation site, and the general paranoia is getting to her. As she falls in love with Corky, the two concoct a plan to untangle Violet from her Mafia connections and make the both of them rich at the same time. Corky, a paroled thief (who did time, she claims, for "redistribution of wealth"), comes up with a scheme to swindle Ceasar (Joe Pantoliano) out of the two million dollars he's holding for "the family."

Everyone in Bound is scheming against someone else, and the curves that get thrown in the way of these schemes necessitate newer and more desperate plans. Corky and Violet plan to set Ceasar up as the fall guy, but Ceasar turns out to be smarter than they ever thought possible. If we could bottle the survival instinct in this guy and sell it, we'd be rich. Once the money is "gone," Ceasar clings to every possibility of getting it back and clearing his name. This guy is a real pit bull of conniving spin control, and may prove to be more than the two women can handle.

The Wachowski brothers, who wrote and directed this debut film together, have produced an incredibly tight script. There are very few "happy coincidences" or twists of fate that spur events: most often, these are the machinations of human beings. The whole movie is an impressive display of Machiavellian brilliance.

There is one scene toward the middle of the movie where Ceasar is supposed to hand off the two million dollars to a mob boss at his apartment. Corky has already stolen the money, so Ceasar is about to hand over a empty suitcase. Ceasar knows this, but he thinks he can save the situation by proving that the mob boss's psycho son stole the cash from him (Violet and Corky figured Ceasar would have run by now). The son, Johnnie, is also in the room, and he is planning to force Ceasar to apologize for a previous slight. The mob boss is trying to keep the peace. And Ceasar won't let Violet leave, so she's trying to think of a way to get out of the room without drawing suspicion. It's a great moment.

Jennifer Tilly gets more screen time than any of her co-stars, which is amusing because she delivers her entire performance in monotone. This is not to say that she doesn't act. She does, but she conveys almost all emotion through her eyes and body language -- and we have no problem with that.

The other principals do themselves proud as well. Gina Gershon plays her role in perpetual tough girl mode, which is what's required, though she does get shafted by spending a large portion of the movie tied up in a closet. With Gershon and Tilly in one room, the level of femme fatale reaches a high unseen since Julie Newmar first slithered her way onto the set of TV's Batman. And Joe Pantoliano got to add extensive acting experience of the emotion 'nervous' to his resume when he next applies for an acting job.

We suspect that Bound just came out at the wrong time; it didn't receive any Oscar nominations and sank out of the public awareness in a mere week. It's also surprisingly good for the Wachowski brothers' first time out as writers and directors -- much like the Coen brothers' Blood Simple, as every film pundit has been quick to point out. Hopefully their next effort will garner more attention and praise.

Review date: 03/17/1997

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