November 11, 2012


Bound1994 set a new standard for what audiences should expect from a neo-noir movie. Between Quentin Tarantino’s “Pulp Fiction” and the Dahl Brothers’ “The Last Seduction,” the genre buzzed with an erotic polarization waiting to be pushed to the far end of the meter. For their 1996 filmmaking debut the Wachowski siblings obviously had precise ideas about what such a movie would look and feel like. Billy Wilder prompted the inspiration. Smoldering lesbian lust was the catalyst. Jennifer Tilly and Gina Gershon provided the chemistry.

Caesar (Joe Pantoliano) is a Chicago mobster living in a plush high-rise with his baby-talking moll Violet (Tilly), who unbeknownst to him is a closeted lipstick lesbian on the make. A promising elevator ride with Corky (Gershon), a recently released convict doing construction work in the empty next-door apartment, is all the invitation Violet needs.


The Wachowskis create far-reaching commentary on female stereotypes. Violet is feminine. She wears dresses that show off her ample bust. Her sultry voice verifies her ability to seduce. Corky, on the other hand, is all male energy. She wears wife-beater Ts that show off her muscular tattooed arms. She walks with a cowboy swagger. When they stand together, the high-heeled Violet looms over Corky. In bed, Violet is the dominant lover. The Wachowskis develop the couple’s flashpoint romance though escalating sexual encounters that peak with a passionate lovemaking episode, which breaks the boundaries for Violet and Corky to commit to each other. Susie Bright’s contributions choreographing the film’s vivid sex scenes are clearly visible.

Because this is a neo-noir, their ardent devotion leads Violet and Corky to attempt to steal millions of dollars in cash from Caesar. Suspense is heightened through the story’s limited locations. Almost all of the action takes place in the adjacent apartments with their paper-thin walls. When Caesar brings the money home in a paper bag, the cash is bathed in so much blood that Caesar has to hand-wash and dry every bill — a situation that allows for one of the movie’s most iconic scenes, in which $100 bills hang like so many socks on lines strung across Caesar’s apartment. Caesar’s money-laundering job title couldn’t be more appropriate. Such examples of wry humor cascade like dominos through the script.


The meticulous plot revolves around Violet and Corky working together to manipulate Caesar into believing that his rival Johnnie (Christopher Meloni), the son of the Mafia boss, has stolen the cash and set him [Caesar] up to take the fall. The plan entails Caesar going on the run to avoid being killed. But Caesar chooses fight over flight.

Revered in lesbian circles for its hat-tips to the lifestyle's authenticity, “Bound” is a neo-noir that earns every ratchet click of tension it draws from its audience.  

Rated R. 108 mins. (A) (Five stars — out of five / no halves)

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