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movie reviewmovie reviewmovie reviewvideo review out of 4 Movie Review: Bound

Starring: Jennifer Tilly, Gina Gershon
Director: Andy Wachowski
Rated: R
RunTime: 107 Minutes
Release Date: October 1996
Genres: Drama, Erotica, Gay/Lesbian, Suspense

*Also starring: Barry Kivel, Christopher Meloni, Joe Pantoliano, John P. Ryan, Peter Spellos

Review by MrBrown
4 stars out of 4

On paper, the noir thriller Bound did not seem like the most promising of cinematic prospects. Writers-directors Larry and Andy Wachowski's only other major credit was for writing Richard Donner's entertaining but overblown Assassins; lead Jennifer Tilly has a tendency to be grating, to say the least; and co-star Gina Gershon was just coming off her overwrought camp queen turn in Showgirls. But thanks to a clever script, strong performances, and very accomplished direction, Bound is one of the year's biggest surprises. I thought my low expectations were being met during the film's first twenty minutes, in which mafia moll Violet (Tilly) tries to seduce the lesbian grease monkey ex-con (Gershon) next door. With Tilly delivering her come-hither lines in an even softer, squeakier voice than usual and Gershon's Corky keeping one eyebrow perpetually raised, these opening scenes play like Showgirls 2; in fact, some of the dialogue is reminiscent of the infamous "tit" discussion scene in Joe Eszterhas's notorious script. Needless to say, Violet and Corky finally do end up in bed, and the big sex scene is actually done very discreetly and tastefully though it still elicited some giggles from the audience. These opening moments are something of a joke. It's as if the Wachowskis knew expactly what the audience was expecting--cheesy lesbian sex--so they delivered it in all its campy glory. But in doing so, it gets that lesbian angle out of the way quickly, so when the main plot does get into gear, the audience is not distracted by the anticipation of the big sex scene. As laughable as the opening minutes are, they are key to understanding the relationship between the two women, and they take on a greater dimension in retrospect as the movie unfolds. After the sex scene, the tone quickly shifts, and the main plot is set into motion. Violet, fed up with the violent antics of her boyfriend, mob launderer Ceasar (Joe Pantoliano), wants to leave him--but not without absconding with $2,000,000 of the mob's cash. And who does she enlist to help her in her scheme? Why, none other than Corky, who cooks up a "foolproof" plan to steal the cash and frame Ceasar for the theft. However, you know what they say about the best laid plans of mice and men... This all sounds fairly formulaic, and, to a certain extent, it is. But what makes Bound so special is the work of the Wachowski brothers. Their script piles on twist after twist and close call after close call, and the developments are very believable and not out of left field. For example, in a particularly suspenseful scene, a mob figure (John P. Ryan) breaks out a set of lockpicks to open a locked case, much to the shock of Ceasar; this revelation does not come off as gimmicky because, earlier, he nonchalantly unlocked a door without a key. The Wachowskis pay close attention to those little details, ones that the audience does not typically pick up on, using them to rattle the audience later on without insulting their intelligence. Another refreshing aspect of the script is the presence of three strong and intelligent characters. At first, it appears as if Corky is the only one with brains, but as the film progresses Violet and especially Ceasar prove to be not nearly as dumb as they appear, giving just as good as they get. The casting of Tilly and Pantoliano is perfect; Tilly's squeaky voice and Pantoliano's New Yawk accent and buffoonish demeanor would make it easy for someone to underestimate them. As well-crafted as their script is, the Wachowskis energize it with a hefty dose of style. The film is always visually interesting, using varieties of camera angles and movements, occasionally venturing into slow-mo without overusing it. One of their more interesting touches is aping certain visual cues from other films and putting their own twisted spin on them: Jurassic Park's famous image of quivering water is duplicated--in a toilet bowl; and the bravura opening shot of Krzysztof Kieslowski's Red, which travels along long-distance telephone lines, is evoked in a clever and hilarious way. Unlike some directors, who go for the good-looking shot, plot credibility be damned, the Wachowskis come up with some stunners that work well within the story, such as when a person gets shot while standing in a pool of white paint, eventually falling in. It's a great-looking image, with the blood clashing against the white, but the presence of the paint is explained by the fact that, earlier in the film, Corky is shown painting her apartment. Bound has just come off of a tour of various film festivals, becoming an audience favorite at every one of them. As it embarks on its run in (mainly arthouse) theatres, I am sure it will become a favorite of everyone fortunate enough to be sitting in the auditorium.

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