Bound could easily be dismissed as just another entry in the litter of stylish, knowing crime flicks spawned by Reservoir Dogs. And yes, there's more than a hint of the Cohens' Blood Simple to it, more than a touch of Scorcese's GoodFellas, and more than a smattering (with its femme fatale leads) of the Linda Fiorentino starrer The Last Seduction. What makes it immediately different, however, is its lesbian angle - the soon-to-be-involved central characters of drifter-with-dodgy-past (Gerson) and fatally attractive mob moll (Tilly) are both girls.
Jennifer Tilly's Violet is a sex kitten squeezed into a tight little dress, the (fatally underestimated) trinket for mob money launderer Caesar (a great performance by Pantoliano) to parade in front of his Mafia friends. With the arrival of Gerson's lesbian ex-con, though, she sees a way out - first seducing the wary Corky with the old I've-dropped-my-ring-down-the-sink trick, then embroiling her in a plot to rip off the bad guys and leave twitchy, paranoid Caesar to carry the can. Naturally, nothing goes as planned, and the Rollercoaster Of Death, Betrayal and Groovy Dialogue soon gathers speed. Highlights include Caesar quite literally laundering £100 bills that've been soaked in blood, dumb cops taking a leak inches away from a pile of dead bodies, and a teasingly almost-gruesome torture scene.
As Corky, Gina Gershon is a revelation. She was tolerable in the Paul Verhoeven/Joe Eszterhas travesty Showgirls, but only, you couldn't help suspecting, in comparison to her truly tragic co-star, Elizabeth Berkley. But Bound gives her a chance to shine. Gershon already has a reputation as a bit of a dyke icon on the Internet (a sort of Pammy Anderson for Friends Of Dorothy), and here she plays the sapphic angle for all it's worth. As the grimy, crop-haired, tattooed, combat-pant-wearing, pick-up-driving Corky - a girl, we soon learn, who's very good with her hands - she's a playful caricature, an idealised mix of butch and femme. Cleverly, she seems to appeal to both hetero blokes and homo women, at least if the reaction of the Total Film preview audience is anything to go by. Throughout, the movie manages to be as sexy as hell without coming across as tawdry male fantasy - a neat trick indeed.
Like many a hip new crime film, Bound continually plays with convention. The camera zooms through the wall from one apartment to another, revealing the two lead characters, in mirror-image poses, leaning against the brickwork that divides them; later it snakes along a phone line from wall socket to phone itself, swirling round in a circle when it gets to a bit where the wire's knotted up. Equally impressively staged are the moments of violence - death in the centre of a giant puddle of white paint, spraying blood into the emulsion like raspberry ripple ice cream. Cinematographer Bill Pope is having a laugh, and it's infectious.
Indeed, Bound looks like it was a lot of fun for all concerned, and hopefully marks the beginnings of a slick and impressive Wachowski Brothers film-making partnership. It might not say anything too meaningful about lesbianism and gender politics (thank God), but if a mainly heterosexual audience can root for its heroines as they would for any other lead character, it must be doing something right.
It's a snappy, stylish black comedy/thriller in the Cohen Bros/Tarantino mould. Inventively filmed, universally well played and twisty-turny in plot, it swaps the usual male antihero caught in the femme fatale's sexual web with a female version of the same character. Plenty of "hot" girl-on-girl bedroom scenes, nerve-plucking moments and self-consciously cool camerawork too.