US | 1996 | Directed by The Wachowski Brothers
Logline: An ex-con and her new lover concoct a scheme to steal a large stash of cash from the lover's gangster boyfriend.
Bound is a neo-noir, a modern gangster tale, told in tight economical form with lashings of style and wit, and liberal splashings of ultra-violence. There’s also some hot and heavy petting between the moll and the femme fatale, which gives Bound a chic lipstick lesbian meets butch dyke edge. A bold move, but the brothers, in their feature debut, pull it off.
Corky (Gina Gershon) is an ex-con hired to work in an apartment as a plumber. She meets Violet (Jennifer Tilly) who lives in a swish pad next door with her mobster boyfriend Caesar (Joe Pantoliano), who launders money for the Mafia. The two women begin a clandestine affair and Violet convinces Corky to help her steal $2,000,000 that Caesar has in custody before he gives it back to Mafia boss Gino Marzone (Richard C. Sarafian). As the money is already stolen loot, it can only go pear-shaped from there. The long arm of Murphy's Law reaches in to the crime scene and grabs the misfits by the short and curlies, and proceedings begin to go seriously awry.
Bound is a superbly constructed screenplay that slowly tightens the knot and screw in classic Hitchockian fashion, except this is more lurid and nastier than what Hitchcock would’ve been able to get away with, although it owes much to the master of suspense in its visual stylistics and plot devices. Even the uber-stylish opening title credit sequence would have made Hitchcock titles regular Saul Bass nod with warm approval.
The movie boasts sensational work from the cast, especially the three leads; Gershon, Tilly and Pantaliano. Gershon delivers one of her finest performances (along with her other leather turn in Prey for Rock & Roll). Tilly - whom normally annoys the pants off of me with her whispery high-pitch - is perfect as the mischievous seductress. Other top notch support comes from Christopher Meloni (TV’s Law & Order: SVU) as obnoxious, hotheaded Jonnie and John Ryan as the unctuous hitman Mickey.
The movie takes place almost entirely within the two apartments (Violet’s pad and Corky’s flat). There is an early scene establishing Corky’s nonchalant swagger in a dyke bar where she tries to pick up an older, more butch woman, but has a “cop” intervene. Curiously, the older butch woman is played by literary luminary Susie Bright, who also served as “technical consultant” (read: lesbian supervisor). At scene's end Corky delivers one of the movie’s many memorable lines: “When you get tired of Cagney & Lacey, find me.”
The camerawork and production design in Bound is marvelous. From the disorientating opening set-up tracking down through a wardrobe full of plush coats and jackets to the pulling out of a snub-nosed .38 Special in extreme close-up, with a tumbler of whiskey beside it, to the very conscious decision of using mostly black and white art direction makes Bound a most artful noir construction. The image of deep red blood splashing over thick white paint is as visceral and perverse as it is darkly sensual.
Bound is a movie that has aged well, like a smoky whiskey, and, like any great cult projection, rewards from repeat viewings. Grab a squeeze, and a malty slug, ease back into the Chesterfield, and wrap yourself up in the silky forbidden.