Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Charisma Carpenter Cashes In On Fifty Shades Fever And Sacrifices So Much Credibility In Bound!

The Good: One or two moments of performance
The Bad: Terrible message(s), Weird/terrible direction, Most of the acting, Solidly unlikable characters, Terrible blends of a- and b-plots.
The Basics: A woman in the running for Worst Mom In The World and Worst Employee In The World allows a complete douchebag to tell her what to do until he goes too far and she strikes back.

Lately, when there is a major cinematic event on the horizon that has enough elements that can be gleaned without fear of copyright infringement, independent cinema leaps upon the opportunity to present a low-budget version of the forthcoming blockbuster. For example, last year, a month before the remake of Robocop (reviewed here!) hit theaters, indie theaters and on-demand viewers were hit with Android Cop (reviewed here!). In advance of Fifty Shades Of Grey “gracing” theaters on Valentine’s Day, the production company The Asylum released Bound.

Bound is, alas, not a remake of the 1996 indie drama by the same name (reviewed here!); it is a vehicle for Charisma Carpenter and, oddly, Daniel Baldwin, to alert fans to the fact that they are still acting. It’s an odd thing in a sexual thriller when the second-billed person is not the love interest for the first, but Bound really only has Carpenter and Baldwin to sell it (whatwith this being Carpenter’s on-screen partner Bryce Draper’s first film). Sadly, Bound represents almost all of the worst of what one expects from independent cinema; the soundtrack is overbearing, the acting seems (most of the time) like it was done in one-take, the characters are unlikable and tormented, the writing is pathetic and the direction oscillates between pointless artisanship and dull. Of all those, Carpenter can only take credit for a bad take or two and taking a role that is not actually promoting abuse as much as it is promoting utter idiocy.

Bound focuses closely on Michelle. Michelle works at a premiere Los Angeles real estate firm where she has quickly risen to a job on the Board thanks to her father, who runs the company. As Walter (Michelle’s father) looks over the accounts and sees more red than black, he resigns himself to the idea that it is time to throw in the towel. Michelle’s pluck and determination leads her to stand up to her father, although she is completely unprepared at the time to bring anything to the table but optimism and hope, and the boardmember who is encouraging Walter to sell, Preston. Walter gives Michelle a very short timeframe to come up with a company-saving proposal.

So, when Michelle takes her daughter out to dinner, she sees an attractive guy getting broken up with by his girlfriend and decides to abandon her daughter to hook up with the guy. Although she refuses to have sex in public with the guy, Michelle finds herself distracted at work, thinking about Ryan. Eventually, she calls him, he tells her what to do and she lets him bring her back to his sex dungeon, er, home . . . where they have sex and she misses important business meetings. They keep having sex, with her introducing her to more fetish concepts, until the night when Michelle comes home to find Ryan about to have sex with her daughter. After rescuing her daughter, Michelle hunts down Ryan, sexually tortures and humiliates him and then is empowered enough to re-focus on saving her father’s company.

It’s a modern fucking fairy tale.

Bound is just dumb. First off, it behooves me to note that I’ve never been one for torture porn; the closest I have actually come is Hard Candy (reviewed here!) and that film at least had amazing performances by Ellen Page and Patrick Wilson, an incredible script and two characters squaring off that were intriguing. Bound has none of that. It’s also not, at least not until the last fifteen minutes torture porn or even porn. The classic differentiation between erotica and porn is that erotica involves consent and porn does not. As little as critics might like to acknowledge it, everything Michelle does in Bound is consensual.

Unfortunately, Bound sets an abysmal message for all viewers. Michelle is a terrible character. In fact, Michelle is such a bad character that one has to wonder why Charisma Carpenter took the role. Carpenter has a history of playing strong women and during the brief time it was rumored that she was in the running to play Wonder Woman, I was absolutely thrilled. But Michelle completely breaks that trend. Michelle meets Ryan and Ryan asserts his will and Michelle dumbly consents: “I don’t smoke.” “Yes, you do.” There is nothing sensual, sexy, smart or even alluring about the way Ryan treats Michelle . . . but she does consent.

What that means in Bound is that Michelle decides to hook up with a random stranger and when he starts getting frisky publicly, she tells him to stop and he does. She meets up with him at a photoshoot where he tells her to have a drink and when she says no, he says she will and she does. Michelle is in no physical or emotional danger from Ryan; his behavior is not actually coercive, it’s assertive, albeit in a completely douchy way. In the party scene where Michelle is blowing off her work, Ryan is not actually forcing her to drink; Michelle could easily say “no” and walk over to her friend or call for help from any of the twenty people within earshot. But, instead, she consents and they hook up.

Sadly, Michelle is an idiot in Bound and it is certainly not a film that is helping women on any front. Michelle is so dumb – I mean, legitimately dumb – that she keeps doing all that Ryan tells her and continues to risk her job and her father’s company by going out with Ryan instead of focusing on her work until she runs into a dominatrix who tells her that Ryan is a bad guy and then she walks in on Ryan abusing her daughter. Michelle is not smart enough to put together the guy is a scumbag when, at a benefit for charity, Ryan tells Preston (essentially) to fuck off, but at least it clicks when the dominatrix tells her explicitly that Ryan is bad and she can see someone else getting abused by him.

Michelle’s outright stupidity is not really a cry for sexual liberation, either. Instead, the argument being made implicitly in Bound is that a sexually liberated woman is unable to focus on anything else but her genitals. Bound has Michelle having a sexual awakening after years of being unsatisfied sexually. When that happens, she drops all of the work she is doing to explore her sexuality . . . even though she has been working her entire life to get to the place of responsibility she has achieved at the outset of the film! She continues to make ridiculously bad choices (letting Ryan use a remote-control vibrator on her at a charity event shows such an extreme lack of judgment, one has to wonder just who the market for Bound is, as one has to assume that anyone stupid enough to find such behavior enticing cannot possibly be smart enough to order a movie on demand or work a Blu-Ray player) and thinks pretty much exclusively with her clitoris.

Any potential for redemption comes when Michelle walks in on Ryan, who has Dara tied up on her bed. Apparently, the line for Michelle is almost-pedophilic rape and Ryan’s desire to witness an incestuous kiss between mother and daughter. One can only hope that the audience’s moral compass is quite a bit farther from that line and they reach the conclusion that Bound is not worth it well before then. But, instead of redemption on any front, Michelle goes to the extreme other end. Far from being liberated, Michelle continues to exhibit the same impulsiveness and irrationality that she has the entire film. She goes medieval on Ryan’s ass and it is hardly cathartic to watch her go from being a woman who makes terrible decisions for herself (and her daughter) to becoming a torturer. The implied moment of catharsis is robbed from the viewer as the police who Michelle called are not shown actually arriving to arrest Ryan.

I’m not saying that there is nothing emotionally satisfying about watching Charisma Carpenter beat Bryce Draper with a camera tripod, but that’s the moment where the film has the chance for credibility and it loses it. Michelle uses Ryan as an outlet for her frustration and rage about how she has been treated and the crap going on at work. Her rage is disproportionate for punishing an attempted rapist. In other words, Michelle is torturing Ryan for the attempted rape of Dara and the psychological effects of her own choice to be submissive to his whims. The result is like watching a seven year-old beat the snot out of his mother after she smacks his hand to stop him from stealing a candy bar. Yes, the child was committing a crime and had to be stopped, but the kid beating up the parent afterward is disproportionate and not at all entertaining to watch. Similarly, Bound is not cathartic, it becomes horrific.

The resolution to the real estate storyline and Michelle finding sudden balance in her life (seriously, when did she have time to write out the proposal that she brings to her professional rival?!) seems even more fanciful than . . . you know what, it just occurred to me: here’s a woman whose daughter was just tied up to a bed and nearly raped by her boyfriend and her solution is to go, beat up the man and then research the professional problem that has been a tired subplot throughout the film instead of actually helping her daughter get through the trauma she has just experienced?! What the hell?!

I was going to rate Bound a 1/10 because there were moments that the movie looked good and Charisma Carpenter’s performance completely carried. I usually only reserve 0/10s for films that actually make me sick to watch. But Bound is one of those films that gets worse upon analysis and that takes it from eye-rolling bad (while watching it) to stomach-turning rage when thinking about it.

Bound should just be avoided and writer/director Jared Cohn should be barred from ever working in movies again.

For other movies with an erotic (real, imagined, or alleged) edge to them, please visit my reviews of:
The Story Of O
The Justice League Of Porn-Star Heroes
Blue Is The Warmest Color


For other movie reviews, please check out my Film Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2015 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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