A lot has changed since Bound was released in 1996. The Wachowskis went from hotshot upstarts to paradigm-shifting savants with The Matrix (1999), a film that has irrevocably altered the form of the action movie. Its sequels, The Matrix Reloaded (2003) and The Matrix Revolutions (2003) were met with rather less rapturous response, while Speed Racer (2008) and Cloud Atlas (2012) split critical opinion right down the middle. As the critical tide gradually turns to a re-evaluation and recognition of the later Wachowski achievements, the time seems more than ripe to return to their first movie. Thankfully, a brand new special features-packed release from Arrow Video does just that.
Corky (Gina Gershon, of Face/Off fame), a recently released gets a job redecorating an apartment next door to Violet (Bullets Over Broadway star Jennifer Tilly) and Caesar (The Matrix and Memento’s Joe Pantoliano). Caesar is a middle-man for the Chicago mob; Violet can’t take her eyes off Corky. The romance between the two – and the chemistry – positively sizzles. Every word they exchange for the first hour is “sex” with more syllables. Before long, the talk turns to robbery – of the $2m that Caesar is preparing to hand over to the head of the mafia family. The planned heist goes wrong, of course. Bound moves at its own pace, gathering momentum as it goes on its merry way to a violent, twisting final act. The result is a modern crime thriller that’s as bloody, sexy and tense as some of the best in the genre.
Gershon, Pantoliano and Tilly all deliver great performances, but it’s the writer-director siblings who still shine brightest. The dense, tight plotting is among the best of their career, while the film’s visual aesthetic is stunning: a clinical, dynamic look that is both economical and extravagant. The film’s colour palette, courtesy of cinematographer Bill Pope – who went on to shoot all three Matrix films, as well as Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man trilogy and Edgar Wright’s Scott Pilgrim vs. the World and The World’s End – is a sumptuous three-tone look featuring saturated reds, vivid greens and a complete spectrum of distinct greys. Much of the film, especially the dialogue, is very knowing and self-aware, playing on the tropes of film noir in a way that is sure to infuriate many viewers. Caesar’s actions in particular often defy obvious reasoning. Yet these come off not as flaws but as crucial elements in the gleeful carnage. Bound is pulp fiction of the highest order.
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