On DVD/Blu-ray – Review: Bound (1996)
by NIR SHALEV
Corky (Gina Gershon) was recently released from prison and is now working as a plumber/painter/fixer-upper in a condominium. One day, she sees Violet (Jennifer Tilly), a gangster’s girlfriend, on the elevator. Their eyes lock and they share a moment. Corky’s outfits generally involve baggy pants, a white tank-top, and a leather jacket; Violet usually wears tight, sexy clothing, like short skirts, dresses that show a lot of cleavage, and high heeled stilettos.
Later, while fixing a vacant apartment, Corky is visited by Violet and they exchange stories over coffee. Then, another day, Corky is called to Violet’s apartment because she’s dropped an earring down the kitchen drain (on purpose, of course). Violet does whatever she can to bring Corky closer to her, every day; seducing little by little. It eventually succeeds and they develop a sexual relationship.
Enter Caeser (Joe Pantoliano, nicknamed Joey Pants): Violet’s boyfriend. Corky meets him and instantly realizes that he’s Mafia. She also, through thin walls, overhears Caeser’s capacity for torturing a fellow Mafioso in order to recover a stolen cache of $2 million dollars. There the plot kicks into gear.
Violet tells Corky that she wants to steal the money and that she requires her help in doing so, which begs the question: did Violet seduce Corky with ulterior motives or is it really just a coincidence? I won’t spoil anything. The second act of the film is my favorite part because while we watch Corky and Violet concoct a scheme to steal the money and put the blame on Caesar, Corky becomes less present as the plan goes into effect. The film then turns into The Violet and Caesar Show. The longer Caesar is on screen the more he grows on you. Yes, he’s a criminal and a murderer and yes, he curses a lot. But he’s eloquent, funny, and Joey Pants is a terrific actor. He’s definitely the highlight of the film and his performance and interpretation of the character are entertaining beyond words (pun intended).
The visual and thematic style of the film purposely resembles that of film noir. Interiors seem to be lit naturally but if one was to really pay attention they’d notice that the lighting schemes slightly resemble German Expressionism; lots of dark shadows, crooked and right-angles, and half-lit faces. There’s also a sort of bleached look to the color of the textures in the film. Faces have a drained pink hue that causes the dark colors in the scene to pop out more. It reminds me of Chiaroscuro-style paintings of the 12th century (and onward).
Speaking of the cinematography, Bound is so old-school, I’d venture to guess that the average shot length is somewhere between five and eight seconds. There are several shots that last more than thirty seconds and have two or three people in the frame. The camera moves to accommodate proper “stage blocking. I am terrifically impressed with how well shot this film is and now realize how poorly The Matrix is shot in comparison.
The writers and directors of Bound are the Wachowski Brothers. This is their first feature film and still their best. It isn’t filled with gimmicks, special effects, or excerpts that are taken straight out of Philosophy 101 textbooks; it contains good ‘ol fashion cinematography, a terrific story that keeps one interested and on edge all the way until the end credits, and really, really good performances from every single actor in the film. This film definitely hits all cylinders at the same time and delivers a near-perfect product.
There’s probably more that I can write about Bound but choose to let those that are walking cold into it enjoy it for what it is, an ageless, contemporary film noir that utilizes a lesbian relationship instead of a heterosexual one. I wondered what would happen if Gina Gershon was replaced with a male actor and realized that it wouldn’t allow Violet to carry on a secret relationship right under Caesar’s nose and the film wouldn’t end up being a breath of fresh air. Between Bound’s initial release and now I haven’t seen another film take this “original” route and I don’t think that I want to, either. It works in context and offers one scene that’s designed for lesbians and pubescent heterosexual male alike.
Bound was released on Blu-ray last week, which is why I wrote this review. Unfortunately, aside from a very good video transfer and a mysteriously mediocre audio track, it doesn’t come with any special features. The Unrated DVD version (the one that I currently own) contains an audio commentary by the Wachowski Bros., Gershon, Tilly, and Pantoliano.
New releases this week: The Hunger Games, Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory, The Raid: Redemption
…and last week: Blue Like Jazz, The Lorax, Marley