BOUND IS A film noir with a twist: Rather than having just
one femme fatale, it features a pair. And though the plot is comprised
of a cut and reshuffled set of conventions familiar from a thousand
previous thrillers, the fact that a romance between two women
is at the center of it all adds just enough of a twist to make
Bound a witty, surprising and extremely entertaining film.
First-time writer/director team Andy and Larry Wachowski have
clearly learned a lesson or two from the Coen brothers, as well
as from a slew of smoky, '40s originals. Bound is so lush
with noir trappings, it's almost a sort of in-joke. There is Violet
(Jennifer Tilly), the gangster moll whose wardrobe consists almost
entirely of lingerie. There is Ceasar, her gangster boyfriend
who talks tough, flashes hundreds and tortures his Mafia pals
for fun and profit. There are Italian dons with big, flank-steak
faces, in a '40s apartment building, smoking cigarettes, drinking
whiskey and flashing pieces. What more could you ask?
The only thing missing, baby, is a poor sucker to help the moll
double-cross her boyfriend. In this case it's Corky (Gina Gershon),
a much-tattooed ex-con with a mouth like Ingrid Thulin and a haircut
like Jennifer Aniston. She's been hired by one of Ceasar's mob
pals to renovate the vacant apartment next door. The apartments
are known, by the way, for their paper-thin walls.
When Violet and Corky meet, sparks fly immediately, and it's
only a matter of time before they're involved in a plot to scam
Ceasar out of a couple of million dollars and get Violet out of
The Life in the process. Violet has twitched her way through the
unconvincing confession that there's "a little dyke inside
her trying to get out," and adds that having sex with Ceasar
is a form of work, not play. Corky, who just oozes street smarts,
doesn't exactly believe Violet, but she's smitten, and the two
decide to pull a caper that depends, at its core, on their unflinching
trust for one another.
All this, and Corky and Violet have only know each other
for a couple of days. This is basically the plot to The Postman
Always Rings Twice and a bevy of other films noir, but Bound
has neatly sidestepped the lurking male/female antagonism of the
form by pairing off the girls. This is a smart move on the part
of the Wachowski brothers. In one fell swoop they've managed to
cut to the core of tension in the femme fatale flick (girls against
boys) and revitalize the whole thing by creating a new sphere
of suspense: Will the women double-cross each other? Who, exactly,
will be the bad guy here?
This is a sticky question since everybody comes across
as morally reprehensible in this movie, though the women at least
seem to have some normal human emotions. We know, too, from watching
a lot of other movies in this mold that women in lingerie are
expected to be experts in seeming, rather than being: With the
mob guys, all their brutality is on the surface, but the mob moll
might be hiding a dagger in her girdle. The Wachowskis, though,
have the intelligence to take into account all the expectations
they're creating by using an ingrained plot, then expertly twisting
these expectations. Nothing unfolds predictably in this movie.
Everyone is smarter than they seem.
After a carefully planned liberation of $2 million placed in
Ceasar's stewardship by the mob, Corky and Violet expect him to
run off and leave them rich. But Ceasar (played with feral intensity
by Joe Pantoliano) doesn't do what he's expected to, beginning
a series of quick, skin-of-the-teeth moves and counter moves that
keep Bound fast-paced and surprising. The Wachowskis keep
things tightly directed with well-timed camera work and an eye
for color--there's lots of blood on white tile--creating a film
so visually interesting that it's easy to forget the entire story
basically takes place on one set; most of it in one apartment.