WFTB Score: 9/20
The plot: All-round handywoman Corky lies gagged and bound in a wardrobe. How did she get there? As the bond between herself and the sultry Violet unfolds, a valuable lesson emerges: if you steal money from the mafia, you had better plan properly.
The name Dino de Laurentiis on a film’s credits always gladdens my heart. The producer has made some bold choices – his Kong remake, Flash Gordon, The Bounty – so it is little surprise to see his name associated with this lurid little film. At the time of release, it garnered significant controversy and thereby publicity for its ‘realistic’ portrayal of lesbian sexuality, played out by established, if not exactly A-list, actresses.
Gina Gershon is Corky (terrible name, I know), the jailbird plumber-cum-decorator heavily into the lesbian scene, which in the 90s was signified by the wearing of black leather. Comparatively butch, she catches the eye of Violet (Jennifer Tilly), the mafia mistress who lives in the apartment next to the one she is doing up; Violet, all curves and breathy speech, is instantly taken with Corky and takes the first opportunity to seduce her. A passionately physical affair ensues; when the pair become aware that Violet’s partner Caesar (Joe Pantoliano), literally a money-launderer for ‘The Business,’ is about to come into possession of over 2 million dollars, the lovers hatch a plan to steal the loot and start a new life for themselves. However, the game of cross and double-cross takes many twists and the opening shot of Corky’s incarceration in the wardrobe suggests things may not turn out in their favour.
Let’s deal with the lesbianism first. The Wachowski brothers may well have had advisors telling the actresses how to have sex, and their marketing of the film did a great job of raising notoriety for the film, but it is a lure and nothing more. The filming of Tilly’s heaving bosom is as much a male tease as a female one and the sole sex scene, which appears early on, contains little remarkable except that it shows two pairs of breasts rather than one. After this moment, about twenty-five minutes in, the film is essentially a bog-standard if fairly nasty mafia thriller, Corky’s sex only coming into play because she’s not as strong as a man when it comes to trying to fight Caesar.
The standard thriller part of the film, mostly set in Caesar and Violet’s apartment, sees Caesar taking possession of the money and Corky nicking it, whilst Violet convinces her man that it has been taken by a hated rival, Johnnie Marzzone (Christopher Meloni). All the mafia figures are present with their standard clichés, and whilst Pantoliano is great as Caesar, a misused ball of twitchy, semi-psychotic rage, he does show up Tilly’s limitations as an actress. The film is furnished with typical Wachowski flourishes, most of which are quite effective – I like the camera following the loop in the telephone wire – but others, for example the hands against the walls, are silly. I am not sure that starting the film with Gershon in ropes serves its intended purpose, either; I presume it’s supposed to add tension, but all it means is that when Corky is skulking around with a gun, we already know she is doomed to fail.
The plot twists of Bound are quite knotty and satisfying, but it does suffer from the Wachowskis’ trademark problems with dialogue, which as usual aims for profundity (‘I can see again,’ says Corky after her mind-blowing sex) but comes off as pretentious. And they have the characters explain their plans so slowly – and repeat them, sometimes – it is almost as if the directors forgot they were making a film for adults and kept the dialogue at a level under-tens could follow.
So, yes there’s nudity, lesbianism, swearing, lots of blood and violence, delivered with a certain swishiness as you would expect. But I am slightly disappointed in this de Laurentiis presentation: it’s different, but by no means as different, controversial or exciting as its promoters would have you believe.