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Trouble Bound

Koch Lorber Films // R // January 16, 2018
List Price: $29.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Thomas Spurlin | posted March 16, 2018 | E-mail the Author
The Film:

In 1993, Patricia Arquette starred in the Tony Scott-directed, Quentin Tarantino-penned True Romance, which marked the introduction of the young actress to the public at large. In that film, she plays a seductive sex worker with ties to organized crime, who takes a violent roadtrip -- in a convertible! -- with a roguish yet charming murderer and a large volume of drugs stashed in tow. Oddly enough, Arquette starred in another dark-comedy crime film, Jeffrey Reiner's Trouble Bound, released roughly half a year before her star-making turn, and the number of surface-level similarities between the two films can be amusing: Arquette's a waitress at a strip club who flees trouble through a roadtrip with an ex-con, in a convertible with interesting contrabands in the trunk. The differences lie in tone and intention, and where True Romance embraces its signature quirky and violent style, Trouble Bound hinges on rote gangster maneuvers, unlikely car pursuits, and dubiously indecisive romantics between the main characters, seeming clear why one struck a chord and the other vanished into obscurity.

Michael Madsen plays Harry Talbot, a not-so-seedy guy caught up on the wrong side of the law, who was recently released from a half-decade stint in prison. After obtaining a car following a round of cards and planning on settling down elsewhere, Harry crosses paths with Kit (Patricia Arquette) at a bar, signaling that she's in trouble and needs to get out of her situation. Reluctantly, Harry takes off with Kit, without knowing the extent of her wrongdoings and connections, in that she's the granddaughter of a crime lord and she's recently messed up in a major way. There's something else that the pair doesn't know: there's a dead body in the trunk of their car, holding something incredibly valuable. All these troubles factor into the fact that Harry and Kit are evading a long line of pursuit from several different sources, and as they zip down highways, the duo spar over their histories and the kinds of people they've become, inching closer to a deeper relationship with each conversation.

An awkward game of cards played by Michael Madsen, Rustam Branaman, and Billy Bob Thornton attempts to add a degree of mystique to Harry Talbot's character, lathering him up by chatting about his criminal prowess and exploits while antes are upped in their game. When it comes to roguish characters, however, Harry doesn't have much going for him to make him compelling beyond a semi-sympathetic backstory, and Madsen's blunt, prickly, yet somewhat reserved ex-con attitude lacks the kind of gravitas that hallmarked his Mr. Blonde from Reservoir Dogs. Perhaps that's intentional, because his milquetoast criminal presence largely takes a backseat to the conniving, inquisitive nature of Patricia Arquette's Kit, who blends sultriness with deceptive intelligence and an unpredictably vicious streak. She, too, isn't like her star-making role as Alabama in True Romance, but the air of mystery about her motives and volatility actually work to her favor, replacing bubbly naivete with grounded calculation.

Most of Trouble Bound functions around the chats between Harry and Kit as they cruise down the highway, with Steven Spielberg's now-regular cinematographer Janusz Kaminski capturing their sideways glances and fluctuating attitudes as their hair waves with the wind. Their conversations are oddly stilted, though, as Kit incessantly jests about Harry's mannerisms -- she's actually a student of sociology and chalks it up to that -- while he monotonously shifts from amusement to irritation at her poking-‘n-prodding, which doesn't build into convincing romantic tension. Naturally, they encounter speedbumps along their trip, mostly in the form of interactions with gangsters of different stripes that inexplicably locate and catch up with ‘em, and the script mistakenly assumes that enough hate-love magnetism exists between Harry and Kit to elevate the perils and unique situational comedy of sequences. Those scenes play out as if they have a connection anyway, resulting in peculiar semi-romantic moments.

Gritty lounge-club music and nonchalant pacing eventually accelerate toward elevations of action in Trouble Bound, but aside from sporadic outbursts of Kit's devil-may-care attitude, there's little surprise or thrills in Jeffrey Reiner's unevenly jovial execution of cat-and-mouse theatrics and gangster shootouts. The tension and daring violence underscored in more iconic ‘90s crime-drama from Scorsese, the Coen Brothers, and others aren't present here, presumably in hopes that the tale of good-guy, love-bird criminals will accomplish enough alongside the suspense created by pursuits to not warrant excessive bloodshed. With the roadmap he's working with, however, Reiner leads the film into a muddled and unexciting culmination point in the couple's lackadaisical efforts to get away from their chasers, piling up logical oddities like dead weight pulling their getaway vehicle down. Trouble Bound may've been able to get over those humps had the romance between its lead characters been a little truer.

Video and Audio:

Some of the treatments put out by Scorpion Releasing of incredibly obscure films have been praiseworthy, especially when you consider how off-the-beaten-path the elements must've been to create an HD presentation. One area where they've struggled lies with print damage, and that's the most noteworthy complaint one can muster toward Trouble Bound's new restoration, presented here under their Code Red label in a 1.78:1-framed, 1080p AVC transfer. Daylight sequences yield delightful skin tones and sunbaked landscapes full of robust tans, blues, and greens, while nighttime shots in bars produce bold shots of reds and cobalt blues that come out of the darkness. Black levels can grow heavy, obscuring details in bulkier shadows, but for the most part the contrast balance enhances naturality and depth in close-ups, peeking through the somewhat heavy but altogether natural film presence. Print blemishes and jitters become a complication, though, both with persistent hairline appearances and a few more significant blotches along the edge of the screen, and the compression isn't the greatest, with heavy pixilation visible at day. All points considered, though, Trouble Bound looks alright on Blu-ray.

The DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mono track is more serviceable than the transfer, and a few points where the print damage crops up also translate to some relatively assertive thumps and hiss in the sound department. There really isn't a lot of action that transpires during the film: a few gunshots and bar brawls push the track's limits, resulting in some harsh and flat sound effects, but mostly the dialogue and light accompanying sound effects just need to keep up with the action that's going on. Which it does, in a moderately stable and unimpressive fashion, lacking nuance and balance in the atmosphere but handling the clarity of dialogue and mild sounds -- the lighting and puffing of a cigarette, the slam of luggage on pavement, the click of locks and clank of glass -- are passably natural under the track's general heaviness.

Special Features:

An Interview with Francis Delia (20:04, 16x9 HD) charts the film's conception, its roots in music videos, and why the screenwriter believes that the writers for Weekend at Bernie's must've read his heavily-optioned script and borrowed the idea. Delia also delves a bit into the darker aspects of the genre, his influences, and why the tone of the film should've been closer to the works of Scorsese and the Coens and that the "scent of olive oil and garlic" should've been in the execution. He makes it pretty clear that he's not a fan of how his script translated to the screen, and it's a fairly candid chat in that regard.

Also included is a series of trailers from other releases, but also includes one Trailer for Trouble Bound (1:37, 16x9 HD).

Final Thoughts:

An unexceptional on-the-road crime romance, Trouble Bound features Reservoir Dogs' Michael Madsen and True Romance's Patricia Arquette as wayward criminals on the run from gangsters, cast in roles just before their popularity got a jolt. Flashes of their charisma, especially Arquette's, can be seen in the pair's individual personalities and early banter, but there isn't much to the thrill of the chase after 'em or in the richness of their developing romance. It's a familiar concept with lackluster, faintly witty execution, barely worth a Rental on those terms.

Thomas Spurlin, Staff Reviewer -- DVDTalk Reviews | Personal Blog/Site
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