Bound (1996)

September 6, 1996

The Wachowski (Andy and Larry) brothers’ film debut Bound will, at first glance, invoke comparisons to that other sibling duo, the Coens. Bound, like the Coen’s superlative Blood Simple [1984], both work as a loving homage to film noir, they both features some interesting off-beat characters, and both showcase some serious technical know-how and agile camera work. On the surface, this may seem like enough evidence to point to a crosspollination of influences between the two brother teams. But, where the Coen’s are seemingly obsessed in remaking a genre’s feel and language as their own, the Wachowski’s see genre as merely fertile ground to plant their own seeds of cinematic storytelling.

Starting with a basic noir story convention (that of a femme fatale that provokes some murderous house cleaning) Bound then leaps away (no pun intended) from the genre norm by making the love story into one between two women. Gina Gershon, (last seen lacking any self-respect in the most surreal film of 1995, Showgirls) is Corky, a leather jacket wearing, truck driving woman’s woman, who just got out of jail. While starting her first job renovating an apartment, she meets up with Violet (the squeaky voiced Jennifer Tilly), and before you know it, sparks are a-flyin’ everywhere.

With Violet’s husband Caesar (Joe Pantoliano) bringing his work home with him (he’s in the Mafia, or as they call it, “the Business”), Violet has a case of the matrimony blues, and it’s only a matter of time before she seduces Corky. Up to this point, Bound sputters and staggers, with the narrative heaving along like a dime-store drunk. The flow here is way too loose, and it’ll be interesting to see if the Wachowski’s improve at communicating their narratives more concisely. Luckily, the story quickly shifts to the conflict: Violet wants out of her marriage and the business, and with two million in cash waltzing its way into Caeser’s life, Corky and Violet begin to hatch a convoluted plan.

Part of the enjoyment of these kinds of films is the anticipation of plot twists, so it seems cruel and unnecessary to reveal more of the plot. It’s sufficient to say that there is some well executed violence, a smattering of vocal and visual gags (the use of Aretha Franklin’s ‘I Never Loved a Man [the way I love you]’ is especially clever), and some excellent camera work, abetted by cinematographer Bill Pope. The camera glides down hallways, glances through peepholes, and captures slow motion with a bravado that belies the brother’s inexperience. The Wachowski’s seem to be comfortably in their element here. As a debut, Bound is leagues ahead of most in its content and craft.

While not as assured a beginning as Quentin Tarantino’s Reservior Dogs, and with some glaring flaws (which are mostly regulated to the first act), Bound may not bring a total media blitz to the Wachowski’s door. Still, in the overcrowded cinematic world, where innovation is deplored and many a director’s hubris overwhelming, the Wachowski’s presence is reassuring, if only because they try the former and seem to lack the latter. These are a pair to watch out for.

ISSN 1499-7894
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