The movie that made the Wachowskis the Ones to watch

The debut movie of the Wachowski brothers (as they then were), Bound is a twisty thriller that mixes mafia, heist and black comedy elements to keep us simultaneously grinning, gasping and twitching with suspense. Gina Gershon is Cork, a lesbian ex-con who’s given the use of a Chicago apartment while she decorates it; Jennifer Tilly is Violet, the gangster’s moll who lives next door. No sooner have the two started throwing smouldering glances at each other in the elevator than we can readily predict that’ll fall into bed together.

What’s less predictable is how they’ll get themselves shot of Violet’s live-in boyfriend Caesar (Joe Pantoliano), a minor Mafioso oozing equal measures of menace and charm. Their opportunity comes when Caesar’s entrusted with over $2m of mob funds pending the arrival of the family’s capo. All they need do is steal the loot, pin the theft on the boyfriend – and la Cosa Nostra will take care of the rest. But it’s going to take split-second timing – and some major trust between the two girls – to pull it off...

The Wachowskis skilfully ratchet up the tension while leaving ample room for sly humour, and the leads – Gershon in particular, igniting the screen with her louche sexy grin – play off each other in impeccable style. A triple shooting is fanned out in hypnotic slow-motion, anticipating the bullet-time tech of the Matrix movies, while the high-octane design takes in some borderline surreal images. At one point Caesar literally has to launder the money – it’s been inconveniently doused in blood when the previous guy holding it was offed – and the apartment is strung about with makeshift clotheslines on which are pegged hundreds of $100 bills hung out to dry.

Tightly, even claustrophobically plotted, Bound makes adroit use of its restricted setting – nearly all the action is confined to the two adjacent apartments – to emphasis the knife-edge timing and precision needed if the conspiring duo are to bring off their dangerous scheme. Likewise the dialogue is clipped and to the point, with little excess verbiage. In terms of plot the lesbian element is incidental, since essentially this is a variant on that old standby: two lovers against the bad guys to rob them of their ill-gotten gains, and we root for them because they’re young, attractive and in love.

But the Wachowskis play so inventively with the film noir conventions and with such infectious gusto, that there’s never the least hint of staleness. The siblings would go on to more ambitious things, but Bound remains a knockout breakout.

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