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Bound (Blu-ray Review)

20 Aug, 2012 By: Mike Clark

$19.95 DVD, $29.95 Blu-ray
Rated ‘R’ for strong sexuality, violence and language. Unrated version also included.
Stars Jennifer Tilly, Gina Gershon, Joe Pantoliano, John P. Ryan, Christopher Meloni.

My wag-of-a-friend Chuck, who admires the femme form, has always said that if he’s ever reincarnated, he wants to come back as a lesbian. Thus, he would probably love the Andy and Larry Wachowski’s cheeky 1996 screen debut (long before Larry transgendered into Lana) — and, matter of fact, I think Chuck told me once that he does.

If so, he probably caught it in the home viewing arena when Republic Pictures Home Video first put it into release — a movie very much against the spirit of those Republics I grew up with starring Rod Cameron, Forrest Tucker and (he always seemed to be around, even in Tobor the Great) Taylor Holmes. In theaters, Bound played about 260 screens overall, though I had tried to beat the drum for it after catching it at a critics’ screening and being totally unprepared for its jumpstart revitalization of the familiar double-cross/caper genre. The impetus/twist here is not unlike the one that propels the Robert Towne/Hal Ashby Shampoo, in which the aggressively straight hairdresser played by Warren Beatty succeeds with his aggressive client hit-ons because their husbands assume he is gay. In Bound’s case, a glorified dim-bulb who launders money for the mob (the greatest big-screen Joe Pantoliano ever) initially deciphers a major bamboozle-ing in his own home because he’s slow to figure that his apartment mate of five years (Jennifer Tilly) has gay hots for the plumber/handywoman (Gina Gerhson) who has just moved in upstairs. Together, the two women plot to “lift” the nearly two million that’s hanging like laundry (long story) in the Pantoliano/Tilly apartment.

This is after, of course, some fairly intense lovemaking between the two women that must have been a challenge to shoot even in the unrated version — a scene which, like the Psycho shower, is one where some may think they see more than they do. Sometimes, you feel as if the cinematographer must have had to do handstands to finesse some of the angles. He was, by the way, Bill Pope — who even here gave evidence of real talent before he went on to shoot all three of the Wachowski’s splashier “Matrix” movies plus the second and third “Spider-Man” pics from the original cycle all of half-a-decade ago (the teen demo’s less than air-traffic-controller-like attention span being what it is). Some of the wall colors here have an un-soothing mix of green and burnt red that don’t exactly suggest a place where a normal person would R&R at home — though, in this case, Pantoliano’s home life embraces cutting off a wayward associate’s fingers (the scene is mean) in the bathroom. Beyond the walls, Pope seems to have paid special attention to the bathroom porcelain, whose whiteness could easily grace a Lysol commercial. All the better to set off the blood visually when it splatters all over the place.

Tilly got an Oscar nomination for Woody Allen’s Bullets Over Broadway, but I don’t think her poopsie-q voice has ever been put to better use than here. This is the one movie that proves how good the Wachowskis could be with actors, and I remember being one of the few people who was actually eager for The Matrix purely on the basis of Bound — and then thinking that that box office behemoth represented a massive comedown (same goes for all their subsequent movies).

Unlike other recent Olive releases of non-black-and-white product, the transfer isn’t like looking at electric Paramount Technicolor from 1952. But the Blu-ray does do a lot to help the actors’ faces stand out dramatically more than their interior backdrops, and this is a more distinctive-looking rendering than I expected. The movie, now and then, is a little like what the Coen Brothers did with their own debut launch, Blood Simple. Both films are kind of a case of, “give us a few actors, a little money and a worn but bedrock genre — and we’ll supply all the attitude you’ll need.”

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