Color, 1996, 108m.
Directed by The Wachowski Brothers
Starring Jennifer Tilly, Gina Gershon, Joe Pantoliano, John P. Ryan, Christopher Meloni, Richard C. Saraf
Olive Films (Blu-Ray & DVD) (US RA/R1 NTSC), M6 (Blu-Ray & DVD) (France R0 HD/PAL), OPSB (Blu-Ray & DVD) (Japan R0 HD/NTSC) / WS (1.78:1) (16:9), Republic (DVD) (US R1 NTSC) / WS (1.78:1) / DD2.0/DTS-HD5.1


A cracking good crime thriller and one of the best neo-noirs shot in color, Bound marked the auspicious directing debut of the Wachowski Brothers (now simply the Wachowskis), the comic book-writing siblings who later made it big with The Matrix. While many filmmakers can show off style to burn in their first outingsBound, this one easily distinguishes itself by both respecting and toying with crime film conventions and, most surprising and welcome of all, crafting a unique and affecting love story between the two women at its center. Critics at the time were caught off guard by the casual presentation of its sexual content (not to mention a few brief but jolting bursts of violence including a nasty finger-cutting scene), but today after years of imitators on TV and in movies, its shock value can now be swept aside to appreciate the intelligent and often visually stunning talents at work here.

Shortly after being released from prison, Corky (Gershon), still smarting from participating in a robbery with a double-crossing female partner, starts up her life again living and working as a plumber at an apartment complex with a few shady crime connections. As it turns out, her neighbors are mob money launderer Caesar (Pantoliano) and his girlfriend, Violet (Tilly). One afternoon Violet calls Corky over to the apartment under the guise of retrieving some jewelry from inside her sink, but it's all a pretense to get Corky into bed. The plan works, and soon Violet reveals a scheme she's cooked up to steal a huge amount of money from under the mob's nose with the abusive but easily manipulated Caesar taking the fall. The elaborate plan (which involves paint buckets, the two adjoining apartments, and more than a little deception) is soon underway, but complications come up including Caesar's boss, Micky (Ryan), and the stupid but violent Johnnie (a pre-Oz Meloni). Soon Violet and Corky are both having to think fast to not only get the cash but escape from the building with their lives.

A near-pBounderfect thrill machine, Bound has aged beautifully and serves as a perfect model of how to ratchet up unbearable levels of suspense within a very confined setting. For once the style helps serve the story as the rich visual palette (relying mainly on deep shades of gray, black, and white in the decor) both echoes the noir influence and serves as a shocking backdrop every time blood or lipstick appear on the screen. Tilly (in between her brilliant turns in Bullets over Broadway and Bride of Chucky) and Gershon (hot off her, well, unforgettable role in Showgirls) are nothing less than spectacular, creating a romantic couple worthy of Hollywood classics but givenBound a heavy erotic charge obviously closer to the more explicit couplings since Body Heat. The big, much-touted love scene between the ladies was steamy enough to earn the film an NC-17 rating upon its release, with a slightly edited R-rated version appearing in theaters and the uncut one (presented as unrated) becoming the de facto edition on home video. It's still pretty potent stuff, actually, though more for the intensity of both Tilly and Gershon's performances than anything potentially explicit. You've never seen a mattress cover plucked off quite like this anywhere else.

The first DVD of Bound from Republic was one of the company's first full-fledged special editions, containing a 4:3 letterboxed version of the uncut film along with trailers, a behind-the-scenes featurette, a commentary (with the directors, Tilly, Gershon, Pantoliano, editor Zach Staenberg, and technical advisor Susie Bright), and interviews with the directors and three leads. The DVD was actually poorly authored and fared badly against its laserdisc counterpart, while a far more satisfying French Blu-Ray appeared later containing a virtually identical roster of extras and a much more cinematic HD transfer. (The Japanese one drops most of the extras but has a DTS-HD 5.1 track like the French one, for what that's worth given the fairly modest nature of the soundtrack.)

Out of circulation for quite a while given the shifting of the Republic library under Paramount, Bound finally came back to America on both Blu-Ray and DVD. Definitely opt for the HD option if you can, as this is a film that benefits from every bit of texture and detail possible on the largest screen you can find. Some have noted that both cuts of the film (sans extras) are presented as separate files on a BD-25 (and why a sane viewer would opt for the R-rated one out of more than fleeting curiosity is anyone's guess), but the results here are extremely attractive and punchier than the film looked when yours truly saw it in the theater and even a notch or two better than the French disc, which was no slouch either. The standard Dolby Digital surround track gives the biggest workout to Don Davis' atmospheric score, not to mention an amusing song choice in the last scene. Not sure why this one didn't merit a DTS bump (space issues, maybe?) but it gets the job done.

Reviewed on August 21, 2012.