Between the thin walls of a seedy apartment complex, jailbird general contractor Corky (Gina Gershon) hatches a scheme with her lesbian lover, Violet (Jennifer Tilly), to relieve the Chicago crime syndicate of a little over two million dollars in cash. Their moral justification? They want it, and their plan should work. That their status as privileged Bonnie and Clyde types should be taken on faith is symbolized by the way Gershon and Tilly complement one another perfectly: In spite of their matching sloe-eyed gazes and Joker grins, they’re a “butch and lipstick” match made in pulp heaven. Complications ensue, as they will in movies involving the mob, hot-headed thugs, and (for lack of a better phrase) sticky fingers. The difference with Bound isn’t that the tale is something new under the sun, but the presentation. Twenty seconds into Andy and Lana Wachowski’s guns-blazing 1996 debut feature and it’s a sure thing you’re in the Matrix. The chintzy wallpaper of Bound, the vintage architecture, the ebony wardrobe—all design elements are phony-baloney in the most exquisitely, fetish-y way imaginable. It’s a labor of fastidious devotion to graphic-novel noir.
It’s also the film that is, along with Showgirls, most responsible for bringing girl-on-girl action, hot and heavy, into mainstream cinema, though, in retrospect, Bound isn’t quite as cynical as it once seemed, in terms of pandering to the same moviegoers who took Paul Verhoeven’s landmark satire as straight (so to speak) sleaze. Time and extra-cinematic circumstances (one of the Wachowskis—a dynamic duo that once cultivated a quasi-frat-boy/fanboy image—has undergone gender reassignment) have reoriented Bound as less of a love letter to teenage boys and more of an earnest attempt at a LGBT-friendly noir, drunk on design rather than the softcore daydreams of some sniggering kid with hand lotion and half a box of tissues.
Fresh eyes also reveal that, for a large part of the second half, it’s a showcase for Joe Pantoliano as Violet’s clueless beau, the unlucky, and dangerously psychotic, Caesar, who sports a Chic-eh-go accent that’s even more ridiculous than his full head of hair. It’s Pantoliano’s more or less one-man show, responding to the missing loot in the most irrational way imaginable, that helps to distract us from some of the script’s flimsier expedients. Beneath his corny, entertaining bluster, the Wachowskis quietly arrange for Violet and Corky to ride off into the sunset, hoping the mechanisms of their success don’t undergo much in the way of scrutiny.
Time hasn't been kind to every aspect of Andy and Lana Wachowski's debut feature: Besides the loud wallpaper and the barbaric suits worn by the gangsters, the 35mm materials acquired by Olive Films for their high-definition transfer are lightly speckled with wear and tear. The transfer is acceptable, about par for a mid-'90s Indiewood feature, if a little soft in places. The Dolby Digital track, which ably preserves a densely layered sound mix (and a few cringe-worthy synth arrangements by composer Don Davis), is adequate, if not mind-blowing.
An empty briefcase. English subtitles would have been nice, considering how much of the soundtrack is mumbled and half-heard.
A typical film-only platter from Olive Films benefits from a sturdy transfer, which flatters some of this hot-lesbian-action thriller's design elements more than others.