Crimson Quill’s Appraisal #300
Number of Views: Two
Release Date: October 4, 1996
Genre: Crime Thriller
Country of Origin: United States
Box Office: $3,802,260
Running Time: 109 minutes
Directors: Andy Wachowski, Lana Wachowski
Producers: Stuart Boros, Andrew Lazar
Screenplay: Andy Wachowski, Lana Wachowski
Special Effects: Lou Carlucci
Cinematography: Bill Pope
Score: Don Davis
Editing: Zach Staenberg
Studios: Dino De Laurentiis Company, Spelling Group
Distributors: Gramercy Pictures, Republic Pictures Home Video
Stars: Jennifer Tilly, Gina Gershon, Joe Pantoliano, John P. Ryan, Christopher Meloni, Richard C. Sarafian, Mary Mara, Susie Bright, Margaret Smith, Barry Kivel, Peter Spellos
Suggested Audio Candy
The Hail Marys “Hopeless Faith”
For Keeper’s landmark 300th appraisal you would be forgiven for expecting me to roll out one of the Goliaths. 200 was The Exorcist and 250 Alien; so which undisputed classic would I decide to cast an affectionate eye over this time round? After careful deliberation I decided, in my infinite wisdom, to throw a cat amongst the pigeons and select a movie which many haven’t so much as heard of. It may not be quite the landmark movie that William Friedkin and Ridley Scott’s magnum opuses clearly are but it is every bit as relevant; particularly in light of the fact that so few have had the exclusive pleasure of experiencing it blow-by-blow. Bound may be largely ambiguous to all but the most fervent aficionados of film but its directors should have long since appeared on your radars.
The Wachowski brothers, now siblings after success of their dystopian masterpiece The Matrix and its lucrative sequels afforded Larry the chance to snip away any unsightly penis, are undisputed heavyweights and this has been proven by the amount of anticipation attached to any one of their subsequent projects. However, long before Neo clutched those two pills and decided an eternity leering at Trinity’s ass in tight leather trumped being harvested like the rest of the human race, this sophisticated and stylish neo-noir crime thriller was doing the rounds, albeit on a far smaller scale. As much as it hardly set the box office alight and, despite a generally favorable critical reaction, having sunk without a trace; make no mistake, Bound was the film which convinced the studio that college drop-outs Larry and Andy’s long-pondered vision of The Matrix should become a reality and they bankrolled it accordingly.
In many ways Bound is every bit as vital a piece of cinema as The Coen Brothers’ Blood Simple and that is one hell of a compliment for me to pay. It is hard to pigeon-hole as it covers numerous different genres but I guess it would be best described as a piece of deliciously black crime fiction with additional bells and whistles. It is, in turn, darkly comic, excruciatingly tense and sporadically violent and the siblings find a way of tying it together into a cohesive whole which is designed to leave its addressee breathless and does so without qualm. By the end of my primary viewing I was a nervous gibbering wreck and few films can elicit such a strong response as The Wachowskis do here.
It reads like your average crime caper. Violet (Jennifer Tilly) yearns to escape the clutches of her mafioso boyfriend Caesar (Joe Pantoliano) so when newly-released ex-con Corky (Gina Gershon) moves into their apartment building and the two enter into a clandestine affair unbeknownst to Caesar; they hatch a plan to relieve him of around $2 million of freshly laundered mafia blood money. So far it may be sounding like 1001 other movies about biting the hand that feeds you but the real innovation here was how The Wachowskis chose to create stereotypical characters and then proceed to challenge the audience’s pre-conceptions. This, in turn, bamboozled executives who insisted that they would only fund the project if one of the main protagonists was changed to male persuasion. However the brothers dug in their heels and stuck fiercely to their guns until which time as Dino De Laurentiis, who had first hand experience of their expertise after acting as executive producer on 1995’s Assassins which the pair penned, went out on a limb and gave them free rein to make their concept a reality.
Bound positively crackles with sexual tension; Gershon and Tilly are perfectly cast as the lovers and both ooze sass and swagger. Corky fits the male gender role with ease and is happiest under the hood of a car while applying her war paints whereas Violet is the closet lesbian who is ready to become liberated and change her preference. She is definitely the more effeminate of the pair although behind Betty Boop’s peepers lies steely resolve and gritted determination. It is actually Violet who encourages their liaison as she methodically seduces Corky in a scene which was particularly unapologetic for a film made in the nineties. The chemistry between the two is vital to proceedings and both actresses come up smelling of roses doused in engine oil. Ironically, Tilly first read with the character of Corky in mind although rightly The Wachowskis requested the pair switch.
Although Gershon is easily up to the challenge of playing Corky and makes the role her very own, it is Tilly’s turn as gangster moll Violet which still sticks with Keeper all these years later. I have long been something of a fan of her work in film, although she is often typecast as ditzy. But the most fascinating fact, especially given the theme of the movie, is that she went on to be undisputed World Series of Poker champion in 2005. I’m a massive poker whore and, if it is ever shown on late night telly, then I’m all in long before the river. However, as much as I found it all very riveting, there’s only so long you can look at Phil Helmuth and pals before you crave the company of a female. Tilly brought her cute dimpled ass to the table and served them all while they cowered behind their oversized shades ogling her ample chest. There are brains behind those boobs and it is evident here as she shows Corky just how quick a learner she actually is.
Pantoliano is priceless as mid-level mobster and not-altogether bad guy Caesar; his refusal to act predictably adds multiple layers to his character and his nagging paranoia over the girls’ blossoming ‘friendship’ keeps us on our toes as The Wachowskis begin to constrict our lungs. He’s clearly a sniveling rat of the highest order but the fact that we secretly wish for his safe passage speaks volumes about how well he presents his argument. As the net begins closing in and Caesar gets closer to catching the pair red-handed; the tension becomes truly excruciating. If I had had an asthma pump handy when watching Bound for the very first time, then I would have emptied it faster than a syndicate bank account as, once it grips, it flat refuses to let go until the final credits have rolled.
Despite almost citing an embolism in its addressee during its taut closing act; The Wachowskis are not afraid to tickle our funny bones and, given the film’s dark overall tone, the laughs come from the most unexpected of places. Even the love scene is played with an undercurrent of black humor and there are plenty of occasions when the constricting shackles of straight-faced thriller are lifted and chuckles facilitated to punctuate the shocking violence and pressure-cooker tension. As we hurtle toward the climax, trust is the key word here. One error will bring Corky and Violet’s world crashing down around their pretty little ears and, because The Wachowskis aren’t interested in bowing to convention, the audience loses sight of who’s scamming who. This is clearly the intention and they evidently relish violating our expectations throughout.
The best way to describe Bound is to take another look at the character Caesar. He displays any number of the following emotions: paranoia, greed, lust, terror, in sporadic bursts and, if you think he has it bad, then spare a thought for any of us watching as all four play their part in equal measure. We want those crisp $100 bills and are more than prepared to hop between the sheets with Tilly and Gershon to secure our opportunity, but we aren’t sure whether we are being hoodwinked and spend the last thirty minutes clutching the explosive like Miles Dyson. If you have any desire to watch a movie which will blindfold you and spin you until you feel queasy, then Bound is the crème de la crème. If one person out there gives this a run-out on account of my affectionate surmisal, then my choice of 300th appraisal is wholly justified in my mind.
Crimson Quill’s Judgement: 9/10
Dread Factor: 4/5
For the Dread-Heads & Pelt-Nuzzlers: The best way of describing the final thirty minutes of Bound is to remind ourselves how we felt when watching Carlito’s Way. It is every bit as heart-stopping, especially when the girls’ scheme’s exposure becomes a probability. Those searching for flesh will find a little girl-on-girl action between Gershon and Tilly more than hits the spot although it plumps for sensuality over excess and this just makes it all the more intoxicating. Speaking of which, and I have touched upon this once before, who would give Lana Wachowski a serving of man fat? Okay, maybe not coitus, but there’s no harm or foul in fellatio right?
Richard Charles Stevens
Keeper of The Crimson Quill
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