‘A gangster’s moll, a silky-voiced seductress named Violet, plots with her lover, an ex-con, to steal a suitcase full of cash from her Mafioso boyfriend.’ It’s a plot that could have powered a thousand films noirs – and arguably has driven a few – and it served nicely as the story for the first film from Andy and Larry Wachowski, with a brilliant twist: the ex-con plumber is a woman, and the plotting lovers are lesbians (Jennifer Tilly and Gina Gershon). The Wachowski brothers already had The Matrix script in their pockets, and a tentative deal at Warner Bros, but first they had to prove themselves as directors. And so they did – with style to burn.
Film noir enjoyed a mini-revival (trendily termed “neo-noir”) in the 1980s and 1990s, and while Bound doesn’t achieve the crackerjack reinvention of, say, Pulp Fiction, it nailed the key tropes of the genre – theft, murder, betrayal, femmes fatales – as brilliantly as Blood Simple, and had a lot more fun while doing so. Those distracted by the sex and violence, both of which seem tame by today’s standards, may have missed the rich seam of black humour running through the film – not least a reliably over-the-top Joe ‘Joey Pants’ Pantoliano with his hilariously literal money-laundering operation.
Hailed by the LGBT community for its realistic portrayal of lesbian relationships – hands and wetness are key leitmotifs – and justly acclaimed by even the most conservative critics as an astonishingly assured debut, Bound has aged remarkably well – thanks largely to its reliance on timeless film noir tropes – and looks stunning in HD. On the occasion of its 5th birthday, Arrow has given Bound fans one hell of a present.
EXTRAS The original pre-Matrix audio commentary has the Wachowskis joined by ‘Joey Pants’, editor Zach Staenberg and sex consultant/extra Susie Bright, who discuss the filmmakers’ strenuous insistence on an accurate, non-exploitative portrayal of lesbian sex, MPAA cuts, budgetary limitations and more, without ever really covering the film’s conception, gestation, or film noir influences. It’s 1996 vintage, but Arrow brings it bang up to date with a brand new 30-minute documentary, Modern Noir: The Sights and Sounds of Bound, in which Staenberg, cinematographer Bill Pope and composer Don Davis look back 18 years to the shooting, editing and scoring of the film, heaping praise on the Wachowskis for their preternatural directing skills. Also new to this edition are some delicious, freshly-shot cast interviews, with Gershon and Tilly spilling secrets (they were originally cast in each other’s roles! Linda Hamilton and Roseanna Arquette nearly played Violet!), and Pantoliano and Christopher Meloni on winning form. The impressive DVD/Blu-ray combo is rounded out by other vintage interviews and featurettes, an essay by James Oliver, new artwork by Sam Smith, trailers, TV spots and more.