BOUND [1996]

PrintE-mail Written by Iain Robertson

BLU-RAY REVIEW: BOUND / CERT: 18 / DIRECTOR: THE WACHOWSKIS / SCREENPLAY: THE WACHOWSKIS / STARRING: JENNIFER TILLY, GINA GERSHON, JOE PALTOLIANO / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW

Three years before they took us down The Matrix’s rabbit hole, the Wachowskis' took their directorial bow with this remarkably self-assured neo-noir.

Bound follows Gina Gershon’s ex-con Corky, who is hired to renovate an apartment next door to mobster Caesar (Pantoliano) and his girlfriend Violet (Tilly). The two women soon embark upon an affair, whilst Caesar is entrusted with a suitcase full of the mob’s money. The scheming pair devise a plot to simultaneously relieve him of it, and rid Violet of the psychopathic Caesar once and for all.

Needless to say things don’t go quite according to plan. As the bodies start to pile up, the increasingly in-over-their-heads Corky and Violet are forced to rely on their wits to survive – both in trying to outsmart the mob, and figuring out if they can trust each other.

On paper it sounds like any one of the production line erotic thrillers that were a mainstay of '90s cinema – lesbian sex, gangsters and graphic violence all feature prominently. But Bound’s a far classier affair, mainly thanks to a sharp script and direction by Andy and Larry (now Lana) Wachowski. They’re aided tremendously by Bill Pope’s superb cinematography, a terrifying turn from Pantoliano, and a pair of career-best performances from Gershon and Tilly. Yes, even better than Showgirls and Bride of Chucky.

Considering the size and sci-fi trappings of the Wachowskis' subsequent films, it’s a lot of fun to see them playing in a different genre and on a smaller scale. A few brief interludes from other characters aside, it’s essentially a three-hander between the main characters, with the action largely confined to the two apartments. Whilst there are some similarities to their biggest hit – a sharp, inventive script, Pantoliano playing bad, gun fetishism and characters who look far cooler in sunglasses than us mere mortals – anyone expecting another Matrix is in for a (very pleasant) surprise.

It also impressively doesn’t overplay the more salacious aspects of the script. Bearing in mind this was only four years after the far more titillating Basic Instinct – and an era where there were entire studios dedicated to producing dodgy erotic thrillers – the film earned praise from the LBGT community for its non-exploitative portrayal of lesbian relationships. Even the oft-discussed central sex scene doesn’t come across as gratuitous. In fact the most explicit thing on display here is the violence, with an early torture scene in particular proving rather squirm-inducing.

The 1990s produced a raft of intelligent neo-noirs, equal to anything produced during the genre’s golden age. Bound is thrilling, ingenious and sexy, and up there alongside the likes of L.A. Confidential and Fargo as one of the best the genre has to offer. It’s just a pity the Wachowskis' have never again focussed their considerable talents on the genre.

Extras: Audio commentary with the Wachowskis / Making of documentary / Interviews with Gina Gershon, Jennifer Tilly and Joe Pantoliano / Featurettes / Booklet


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