disclaimer from the future: Back in ’96 when BOUND came out and then in 2002 when I wrote this I really believed the movie to be the work of two men who were horny to watch lesbian sex and trying to pass it off as enlightenment. This turned out to be not so accurate! But I will leave this review as-is for the historical record.


Well I saw this picture a long time ago, but now with all of America waiting anxiously for THE MATRIX PART 2: RETURN OF THE MATRIX and THE MATRIX PART 3: BEYOND MATRIXDOME, I thought it would be a good time to go back and take another look at the Wachowski brothers first picture, this stylish neo-noir with a side of lesbians.

It’s funny to think that these guys have now done 3 MATRIX movies in a row, and the only other movie was this one, which they made only to prove to the studio that they could direct THE MATRIX. At the time nobody knew what the fuck the Matrix was so they just thought they were trying to be like the Coen Brothers when they made their first movie BLOOD SIMPLE or the Dahl brothers when they made their first movie RED ROCK WEST but really they were just being the Matrix Brothers doing a demo reel.

BoundThis movie really is a throwback, a very retro femme fatale/rip off the husband film noir type deal, with modern camera trickery and language, and the one twist that the Fred Macmurray character is a gal. Gina Gershon (from FACE/OFF) plays Corky, the most unconvincing butch lesbian in the history of Cinema. She’s supposed to be tough because she wears an undershirt covered in grease, and she works on her truck alot. She’s an ex-con (tell me about it) who meets a mafia money launderer’s trophy wife (academy award winner Jennifer Tilly, from BRIDE OF CHUCKY). They want each other pretty bad, next thing you know Corky’s getting fisted and they come up with a plot to rip off Jennifer’s husband for millions of dollars.

Although I suspect the Matrix Brothers got off on watching the lesbian sex, I guess it’s not all that exploitative. They don’t really make a big deal about them being lesbians, they seemed to get things right according to the consultant on the dvd commentary track, and if it wasn’t Gina Gershon it could’ve been some pretty boy tv actor pretending to be tougher than he really is. Also they got this whole hand theme going which is pretty funny. Joe Pantoliano plays the husband, and he unknowingly interupts the gals’ first romp, and immediately shakes Corky’s hand, not knowing where it’s been. “You must be good with your hands” he ends up saying. Get it?

The look of the movie is very distinctive. Very nice use of shadows and lots of slow, hovering, show offy camera movements. You can definitely see the MATRIX connection. They’re not frinetic, give you whiplash kind of camera movements, just very deliberate moves out of gun barrels and into toilets and along phone cords following conversations. There are many clever ideas: using the thinness of the walls to pass along information or create tension, hiding the money in paint buckets so when it gets stolen it leaves a trail, and so a guy can get shot and bleed into a pool of white paint, and that kind of stuff.

In one of the real good moments in the first half of the movie, Pantoliano bursts into the apartment carrying a huge armload of money covered completely in blood. “Oh my god!” says Jennifer Tilly. He says “Don’t worry, it ain’t mine.” Next thing you know he’s cleaning the bills one by one and ironing them.

Despite all this, the first half of the movie is pretty bad. The way they set up the characters, with that gloomy atmosphere and marginal acting… I don’t care how stylish it is, you start thinking softcore porn on Showtime. I know the dialogue is supposed to be retro but it’s hard to take shit like Corky’s monologue about stealing:

“To me stealing has always been alot like sex. Two people want the same thing, they get in a room, they talk about it. They start to plan, it’s kinda like flirting. It’s kinda like foreplay. ‘Cause the more they talk about it the wetter they get. The only difference is I can fuck somebody I just met. To steal, I need to know someone like I know myself.”

I mean jesus. But really, it’s pretty much exactly halfway in, they start their scheme to rob the husband and suddenly it turns into one of the great neo-noirs. They trick the husband into thinking one of his partners ripped him off, and he believes it so thoroughly that he ends up killing the guy AND his big shot italian father, and then he has to pretend he still has the money and find it and give it back to the boss AND hide the dead bodies, and the worse a hole he digs for himself, the worse things get for Jennifer Tilly because she has to help him if she wants him to not figure out that it was actually her that took the money.

There are many inventive ways to create tension and the actors playing the mafia guys are great. There is some horrific violence, some humor, laffs, everything you want. A good time at the movies if you can get past the Shannon Tweed style first half. Keep up the good work Matrix Brothers.

This entry was posted on Tuesday, January 1st, 2002 at 3:05 pm and is filed under Crime, Drama, Reviews, Thriller. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

4 Responses to “Bound”

  1. Also they got this whole hand theme going which is pretty funny. Joe Pantoliano plays the husband, and he unknowingly interupts the gals’ first romp, and immediately shakes Corky’s hand, not knowing where it’s been. “You must be good with your hands” he ends up saying. Get it?

    I believe he also brings his [2nd hand-vag-scented] fingers up to his face during his awkward intro to Gershon’s character, which is funny in my opinion. The filmatists don’t do anything to bring attention to this act, but it’s there.

    Good fucking movie, this. Vern here has fallen for the same trap most reviewers fall for, I’m sad to say, in that a movie with, like, barely 2 and a half sex scenes (probly 5-6 minutes-ish out of the 105 total minutes runtime) must be compared to Skinemax and Shannon Tweed and softcore this & that. I don’t see it. There’s only nudity, briefly, in one shot of BOUND.

    The Coen brothers comparison is based on noir tone, inevitability of the tragedy of coveting cash & un-valuing human life in the process, and exactly one shot — recall the Coens’ camera glides & elevates itself over an obstacle in one special p-o-v tracking shot in BLOOD SIMPLE; in BOUND there’s a shot of a phone signal traveling through the phone cord (this was 1996, time of the landlines) and the camera does a quickie loop-dee-loop through a knot in the phone cord. Good shit. So good I think they reused the concept & visual in THE MATRICES.

  2. “I suspect the Matrix Brothers got off on watching the lesbian sex.”

    Well, admittedly, that was a huge draw card for 1996 Darren when I picked this up at the video store, so they’re not the only ones. Not saying I got off, just saying, you know…lesbians.


    The hook that made BOUND stand out amid the 90’s neo-noir’s was the side order of lesbians, plus, I think, the dressing of old school mafia characters. Most neo-noirs like RED ROCK WEST, CHINA MOON, KILL ME AGAIN(the Dahl brothers first film) were about small time nobodies or fringe criminals who get in over their heads. Which makes the situations they get into more desperate from my point of view, but the mafia characters in BOUND elevated it to a more flashy cinematic experience. I especially loved Joe Pantoliano’s performance as Caesar. Underrated actor in my opinion. When he finds out the money is missing and starts freaking out, he actually starts shedding what look like real tears.

    Considering the Wachowski siblings used roughly four locations for all their scenes, they innovated the shit out of it. Lots of entry shots, like the mafia honchos walking into Caesars apartment block, done in overhead shots with long shadows behind them on the marble floors. Sometimes just their legs in frame. Tension created in a close-up of a cops shoe treading in a pile of blood on Caesars carpet.

    2012 Mouth was sorta right about 2002 Vern in that the first half was not as lame as a Shannon Tweed joint, however, it could be accused of being just a tiny bit boring for about the first half hour. But that’s a small complaint in a mostly great film.

  3. Vern, I think you should reappraise some of the aspects of this one. Rewatched it for the first time in a long while. It still is an amazing movie. It might be the most progressive, at least at the time, deptictions of lesbians. They are not portrayed evil, having girl-to-girl sex is not shameful, the film revels in the scenes like it should. It is okey for girls to have sexual experiences withe ach other if they please. It never feels exploitive. In fact I get the feeling the scenes are liberating more than anything. And as they are only a small part of the movie, in the beginning it sets up these women as unapologeticlly attracted to each other , not because of decadence or ungodly behaviour, but simply because they are attracted to each other.

    Lines like ” I am not apologizing to what I did to you, I am apologizing for what I did not do to you” is a very clear marker of that.

    It is also about a women freeing herself from a male oriented environment. Violet is the real hero. She is not a femme fatale. She is the protagonist. She is the more resource ful of the two, I feel. It twists the noir genre a bit.

    The person who thinks lesbians are devious and sickening are the villain himself, the possessive Ceasare ( perfect performance from Joey Pants), not the point of view or the morale from the film. In fact the empowerment of lesbianst might come across a bit too obvious with some of the cheesily obvious tracks that are being used

    The stylish direction and the suspense is still so tight and gripping, this might be the Warhowskis best work in my opinion. Great stuff.

  4. BOUND to elaborate: And,though they are manipulative ,as BASIC INSTINCT taught us about lesbians, it is Violet who sets everything in motion as part of a scheme of liberation. She motivates Corky. She is the one who bluntly “courts” her and gets her in on the scheme. But never betrays her, like conventional femme fateles usually does. Corky is the masculine female, “the male” in conventional film noir that gets suckered or trapped by the femme fatale. She also has for a long part of the dilm nothing to do.

    I may be full of shit here. But I think there is a lot to discuss here in terms of sexual politics and genre conventions.

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