The Wachowski’s Bound is an absolute masterpiece of contemporary crime cinema. Made before anyone had actually heard of the pair (three years before The Matrix), this neo-noir pays homage to all the elements and trappings of the genre and yet renews them for a new generation – nearly 20 years later and the film feels as relevant and fresh as any other coming out today. Starring the insatiable coupling of Gina Gershon and Jennifer Tilly, Bound wasn’t and isn’t afraid to put women on screen who aren’t apologetic about wanting to have sex. Bound is a foreboding piece of cinema, where women are in control and not necessarily reliant upon a man.
This also remains an important step forward in the representation of lesbians on screen and lesbian relationships in cinema; but also their appearance within mainstream Hollywood, which is so rare and worthwhile. Gershon stars as Corky, a no bullshit sorta gal who has managed to get a job refitting an apartment in a fancy block. She drives a Chevy truck, wears wife-beater vests and has tattoos down her arms; whilst one could accuse the Wachowski’s as slightly over egging the stereotype it is by no means hyperbole as she represents a very specific kind of lesbian, often referred to as butch. On the other hand, you have Tilly’s character, Violet, a femme fatale if there was ever one. She moves gracefully and sweetly across the screen, dressed very femininely and speaks with a soft purr but she knows what she wants – Corky.
The only problem for Violet is that she is the girlfriend of a money launderer who works for the Mob (or The Business), Caesar (Joe Pantoliano) and he isn’t letting her get away too easily. After Violet catches Corky’s eye in the elevator one day, they flirtation grows over drinks and Violet’s plan falls into place when she purposefully drops an earring down the sink and asks Corky to retrieve it for her. What follows is a passionate chase both with the characters but also the filmmakers as the camera loves Tilly and admires her body just as she admires herself. She has taken pride in her look and wants Corky to notice the same thing; her legs, her breasts, her lips. This film is a film theorists field day. Corky and Violet embrace and have an explosion of their sexuality on screen; they are independent and aware and fully in control of their own sex.
It is from here on in that the twists of the tale start; one of the mobsters has stolen two million dollars and the head of the family wants it back. It is left to Caesar, Micky (John P. Ryan) and Johnnie (Christopher Meloni) to retrieve the money. Johnnie is the son of the head of the family, Gino (Richard C. Sarafian) and demands respect, something that Caesar is not willing to give. Hearing all this violence, Violet realises that she must get away and decides to hatch a plan of her own but she is going to need someone else to help her with it. She proposes to Corky that together they can steal the money that has been retrieved and somehow they can turn it around and place the blame on Caesar, by which point the women would have long gone.
It is known that the femme fatale is a mysterious and seductive women who often tricks her lovers into doing her bidding and places them into dangerous situations. She is often alluded to having powers of the supernatural because of her control over men. So it is with this in mind that the power and intelligence of Bound is realised – for Violet is that femme fatale and she does place Corky into a situation of danger and violence but the film has subverted two of the elements of the character; firstly, her lover is a women whom she seems to have some form of control over and secondly, she sticks around to see out the entire plan and stays by the side of her partner in the crime. In terms of genre, the Wachowski’s have subverted and modernised one of the greatest and most popular forms of storytelling and with a huge success.
Without the chemistry between Gershon and Tilly, Bound would have fallen flat but when they are together on screen it is electric. Both performances separately are great, fully commanding the attention of the audience but together they are extraordinary; they just feel like they really know each other, sexually, personally and even when it comes to the business of the crime itself. Their pairing is quite clearly one of the best in cinematic history.
Bound is simply brilliant – and in this new HD transfer from Arrow Pictures, the film looks crisp and beautiful like those on screen. Highly recommended and really something special.