Sunday, August 14, 2011

Nothing As It Seems For Those Bound To Perfection!

The Good: Good acting, EXCELLENT Characters, Well-written, Engaging plot
The Bad: Light on DVD features
The Basics: Bound is an engaging film that rightly won the Wachowski brothers a chance to write and direct The Matrix

It's easy to look at a film like Bound on the shelves and say "Hmm . . . I don't want to be caught leaving the store with THAT!" That could be the attitude that kept the film from doing well at the box office. Shame on you all with that attitude! Two strong-willed women tied up with rope on the cover of a video box is no reason not to pick up a film.

Bound follows Violet and Corky, one a girl Friday for a mobster, the other a rough and tumble handywoman. Violet works for Caesar, a petty thug for the local Mafia. Corky, fresh out of prison, is working next door working for the landlord who is also connected. When a rat in the organization is sniffed out, Caesar discovers one of his operatives behind it and his conflict with Johnnie, the son of the Don reaches a historic peak. Unfortunately, Caesar is ruled by his temper where Corky and Violet are ruled by cunning and intellect and the story goes from there! In the balance are a couple million dollars that Caesar must recover to the mob and Corky and Violet see their chance to take.

It's rare in this day in age that you can say you watched an artistic film that was great. In fact, the moment you say, "artistic film" you've lost a good chunk of the population. But Bound is an artist's solution to the brain dead action film blockbuster. That is to say, outside the protagonists being both women and lesbian, the characters could be in your average Schwarzenegger or Stallone action flick. That is, if Stallone and Schwarzenegger appeared in films using dialogue. Bound has the gravitas of other classic gangster films like The Godfather and GoodFella's.

What's the difference here, between Bound and your typical action-adventure or suspense film? Nothing is gratuitous, nothing is senseless. It's an irony that disappears with the second viewing, considering that Violet (Jennifer Tilly) comes across as senseless. Released in close proximity to the amazing The Usual Suspects, Bound makes similar leaps with narration and character. So, the first major difference is that Bound is not told in a linear fashion.

The simple plot is that two women fall in love and take the Mob for 2.17. . . million dollars. The first few minutes take the time to establish Corky and Violet, a pretty stereotypical dyke/fem lesbian combination who fall for one another when Violet becomes surprisingly sexually aggressive with Corky. The scenes of their lovemaking are actually erotic, unlike a lot of theatrical sex scenes which come across as choreographed and/or cheap. Filmed with a wonderful sense of shadow, light and movement, the lovemaking in Bound is not extraneous or simply sex for sex. Indeed, the line from Corky that immediately follows the lovemaking is a wonderful expression of what the experience means!

Populated by characters who have depth and extensive backstory - which comes into play without an added "this here is backstory" feel - the film is an artistic vision in cinematography, plot and scope. Indeed, the last scene Joe Pantoliano's Caesar appears in is one of the most beautifully shot scenes of any movie ever! Seriously: EVER!

Directors Andy and Larry Wachowski (yes, the same pair that made The Matrix and V For Vendetta) have an amazing eye for framing shots and camera movements, using the cinematography to tell the story, never letting it overwhelm the meaning or significance of the film's actions, but rather accenting what best defines the characters and moves the plot along. The Wachowski Brothers used Bound as a directoral audition to get funds for The Matrix and within moments of beginning this movie, the viewer will see why that deal could be sealed by this work. The style is distinctive, engaging and interesting.

In fact, Bound is more than an artistic film noir movie. It's shot with a keen eye for detail and written with a great appreciation for how a story may be told. It's the antidote to today's fast-paced, hard to watch movies that are visually stunning, but intellectually devoid. Bound has meaning.

The principle actors in the film are all amazing, playing at the top of their game. Christopher Meloni (tv's Law & Order: SVU) appears as the menacing psychopathic gangster Johnnie Marzzone. He is dark and edgy and the few scenes he is in he is unpredictable and connoting danger for every moment. Joe Pantoliano plays Caesar, the gangster who embodies the arrogance and assumed power of organized crime. Pantoliano plays Caesar with an ease and casual body language and slurred accented speech that makes it obvious why he would end up as a staple in gangster movies from this point forward in his career.

Gina Gershon plays Corky and it's astonishing how well such a beautiful woman is able to transform herself into someone who is so . . . well, diesel. Gershon's Corky is more than simply a stereotype for powerful, somewhat masculine lesbians, she plays Corky with an intelligence and cunning that comes through in her eyes, her catlike movements while prowling and in her clenching of her jaw when interacting with the violent Caesar. Gershon lights up ever scene she is in this movie with a sense of physical power as she roams the halls in a tanktop, moving with lighting speed and quite simply acting like I've never seen Gershon perform before.

The lead is Jennifer Tilly as Violet. Tilly uses her high, girlish voice to seduce the viewer into believing her innocence. She plays the audience, just as Violet plays Caesar and her role is juicy. It's hard not to watch Tilly play in Bound and drool a little, so sensual are all her movements and so convincing is the faceted way she presents Violet.

Finally, in addition to being an intelligent film, it's nice to see some characters - even criminals - acting with intelligence. No one here is particularly stupid (though the police might be considered somewhat ignorant) and that's reassuring after slews of boring films with cardboard villains. Despite the emotions that overcome everyone once the chase for the money begins, most of the actions are guided by reason and character as opposed to simply instinct. Violet negotiates with Caesar, just as she plays the prominent mobsters Johnnie and Micky. It's clever.

This is a must see for anyone who likes drama. It's definitely intended for an adult audience.

For other films by the Wachowski brothers, please be sure to visit my reviews of:
The Matrix
The Matrix Reloaded
The Matrix Revolutions


For other film reviews, please visit my index page by clicking here!

© 2011, 2007, 2002 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.

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