The feature film directorial debut of Andy and Lana (at the time Laurence) Wachowski, 1996's Bound follows the exploits of Corky (Gina Gershon), a hard living tough talking ex-con recently let out of prison who takes a new job as a maintenance person at an apartment building. Here she meets on of the tenants, Violet (Jennifer Tilly) - who lives with her mobster boyfriend Caesar (Joe Pantoliano). The relationship between Violet and Caesar isn't what it used to be and she's more or less over him and his ways. Before you know it, she and Corky are falling for one another pretty hard and having a steamy affair that results in the two putting together a clever plan that will simultaneously get Violet away from Corky and the mafia life she's fallen into and make the two lovely ladies a whole lot of money: scam the two million dollars in cash that Caesar has been asked to stash for mob boss Gino Marzzone (Richard C. Sarafian) and make it look like he made off with it. The catch? Well, Caesar is smarter than the ladies give him credit for.
One of the best modern takes on film noir, Bound is a kick from start to finish. Though much has been made of the film's steamy lesbian sex scenes (and rightly so - they're hard to miss!), there is truthfully quite a bit more to this movie than just the Sapphic coupling of the two lead actresses. The script is very clever, working in all manner of twists and back stabbings throughout its running time to keep you guessing and easily hold your attention while some well played moments of strong but never quite excessive feeling violence are used effectively to jolt us to attention when the film asks for it. What's most amazing about this is that none of the plot devices employed in the movie ever feel contrived or convenient, a testament to the strength of the writing here.
On top of the story we've got three amazing performances to gush over as well. Gina Gershon is great as the tougher (at least on the outside) of the two females in the story. Her ex-con is a hard woman but clever enough to get this ball rolling. Her on screen chemistry with Tilly as the supposedly softer of the two ladies is tense and even palpable at times. Their romance feels passionate and dangerous and while the film may occasionally play up the taboo aspect of the lesbian side of things, the two actresses are rarely less than perfect in their roles. They nail it all here - the looks, the mannerisms, the body language and the dialogue. Also impressive here is Joe Pantoliano who really doesn't get as much credit as he deserves for this picture's success. His Caesar is expected to be set up as the patsy, the script puts everything in place for that to happen but the female characters and in turn the audience underestimate his survival instincts and as such, he's responsible for so much of the tension and surprise that the movie offers up in spades. Pantoliano makes all of this work, he's completely believable in the part and really and truly makes the role his own.
All in all, it's a ridiculously good debut for the Wachowski's. For that reason it's often compared to the Coen Brothers' Blood Simple - the fact that both films are noir inspired probably part of the reason that happens so much - but Bound stands on its own. The Wachowski's would go into very different places as their career progressed and hit new heights after the success of The Matrix movies, and Bound seems almost quiet compared to that trilogy. In many ways, however, it's their strongest effort to date. If it doesn't get the recognition that their bigger Hollywood productions have over the years, that's a shame.
Olive Films presents Bound on DVD in a 1.85.1 anamorphic widescreen in a transfer that generally look pretty good. The previous R1 DVD release from Artisan was non-anamorphic so seeing the film properly enhanced for 16x9 displays is a nice plus. Additionally, detail is about as good as a standard definition presentation of the movie will allow while colors are also handled quite well here. Black levels are strong if not reference quality while skin tones look nice and natural. Some minor print damage pops up in the form of the odd speck here and there but otherwise, the movie looks good. There are no serious compression issues nor are there any edge enhancement problems.
The English language Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo track sounds good here. The dialogue is clean and clear and there are no issues with any hiss or distortion related problems. The score sounds nice and slick and the levels are properly balanced. The low end is pretty strong and adds what it needs to various scenes without burying anything else in the mix. This is a fairly dialogue heavy film and not a slam bang action fest so don't expect the most rambunctious of mixes, but what's here suits the movie just fine without any problems to note.
Although the DVD, as stated, does contain both versions of the movie (the unrated version clocking in at approximately fourteen seconds longer than the R rated version which omits a few of the racier seconds during the lesbian sex scenes), there are no other extras on the disc aside from a menu and chapter selection options. The commentary track and theatrical trailer included on the previous release are nowhere to be found here.
Bound holds up incredibly well more than fifteen years after it brought the Wachowski's to a certain level of acclaim. It's a twisted and unconventional film that toys with our expectations and offers up a seriously delicious smattering of sex, violence, style and twisted dark humor. Olive's DVD release looks and sounds fine but omits the extras that the older DVD offered - and that's a shame because it offers up a much improved transfer over that old release. Regardless, the disc comes recommended for those who haven't seen it, with the caveat that it doesn't include the pre-existing supplements.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.