New Life for Film Noir
Corky (Gina Gershon) is a lesbian and former con artist who is trying to leave her past behind and rebuild her life. After being released from prison, she works as a plumber and is assigned her first project: an apartment to fix and paint for a decent amount of money. However, her work takes a back seat when she meets the couple next door – Caesar (Joe Pantoliano), a mafia gangster who launders money and his mistress, Violet (Jennifer Tilly). As soon as the two women are alone in a room, they begin flirting heavily. They want to have sex, but they are interrupted by Caesar’s return.
Corky and Violet grow closer together over time and their relationship becomes deeply intimate, not only physically, but also emotionally. Violet opens up about her struggles with Caesar and her fears. She also tells Corky that she overheard her lover torturing a man named Shelly (Barry Kivel) who had been stealing money from the mafia. Violet confides in Corky and tries to convince her to run away together. She plans on stealing the two million dollars which Caesar will collect from Shelly and plots an entire scheme. Corky, however, isn’t certain that she can trust Violet.
“Bound” crosses— it is a caper movie, a gangster movie, a sex movie and a slapstick comedy. It also is one of the best film noir films and it is pure entertainment. When the Wachowskis burst came on the scene in 1996 with their first feature film “Bound”, critics and audiences were blown away with a technique that showed itself not just in the nuts and bolts of film craft, but also in a unique point of view that came through incredibly strongly in their writing. “Bound” injects new life into the film noir genre with Jennifer Tilly portraying Violet, a seemingly ditzy gangster’s moll who falls for Corky, a very “out” lesbian who is doing renovations in the apartment next door. Tilly is totally effective playing a woman desperate to break free of a Mob to whom she may not be quite married, but with whom she is certainly at least shacking up. Violet works her wiles on Corky, enlisting the ex-con to help her lift two million in cold, hard cash from Caesar and that sets the main “caper” element of the film into motion, playing out within a noir setting where we are left to wonder if Violet is really setting Corky up to take the fall. Since the film begins with Corky obviously bruised and battered and, well, bound in a closet sets expectations up that, in this case, it’s a female who is the boob of this particular scheme.
The film is incredibly violent at times, and is also overtly sexual, especially in the just slightly longer unrated version that is included on this Blu-ray along with the theatrical R-rated cut. The frank depiction of lesbian sex (there was evidently a “lesbian sex consultant” on the film, believe it or not) may alternatively turn off or turn on various people, depending on their particular points of view, but it gives the film a very visceral quality which completely upends the traditional noir narrative. The violence, while graphic, is well handled, with “hints” of the most extreme acts rather than outright depictions. Through it all, though, the Wachowskis keep their camera in almost nonstop kinetic motion, giving a certain carnival-like atmosphere to the often very dark proceedings.
The performances can’t be underestimated. Tilly has never been better, and Gershon redeems herself from what had been her previous performance, the disastrous “Showgirls”. Pantoliano is wonderful as the vicious Caesar, and Christopher Meloni is very funny as Johnnie, a dimwitted son of the local Mafia chief. The film’s brilliantly anarchic combination of horror and humor.