Directorial debut films are a funny old lot. Peter Jackson’s first feature was the whacky Bad Taste, Kevin Smith gave us Clerks, Danny Boyle put out the magnificent Shallow Grave and James Cameron made…….err, Piranha 2: The Spawning. Add to that list, from 1996, a debut from siblings Andy and Lana Wachowski, called Bound, which is arguably one of the best ‘first’ films ever.
Essentially a noir movie, (prefix with neo if you like) Bound is such a taut, clever, stylish and confident piece of work, it really does beggar belief that it is a debut feature.
Jennifer Tilly is Violet, a married to the mob kinda gal, all legs, cleavage and a husky voice. She lives with Caesar, (the fantastic Joe Pantoliano) a violent Mafioso with a temper and a controlling streak. When Violet has a chance encounter with crooked ex-con turned plumber, Corky (Gina Gershon) one afternoon, she decides to seduce her and, eventually, between them they hatch a plan to swindle $2 million from the mob and ride off into the sunset together.
Straight from the off, one can tell that this movie is a class apart from the raft of other films out there. Opening with a simple, stark and effective title shot then seguing into a tight, tracking shot inside a wardrobe, it’s clear there are great minds at work here. The set-up, having our two heroines situated next door to each other allows for some delightful moments of tension and interplay between the two apartments and, one particular set piece with a ringing telephone is just exquisite in its nail bitey-ness. As is the scene where Caesar thinks he knows who took the $2 million and confronts the culprit. As is……ah, you get the idea. There are definitely thrills aplenty in this wicked little film.
Shot by Bill Pope (Pet Semetary, Army of Darkness, Darkman, The Matrix, Spiderman 2) on a meagre budget, after the initial DOP dropped out because of, said, meagre budget, the film is influenced by the usual pulpy fiction icons, from comics to Billy Wilder, but especially, by Frank Miller’s Sin City stories.
Joe Pantoliano, as I’ve already said is fantastic as the edgy, yet sympathetic, mob soldier, who just wants to better himself but finds himself in a lose lose situation. Tilly and Gershon both smoulder in their roles, John P. Ryan is understated calm as mafia enforcer Mickey and Richard C. Sarafian has a small role as mob boss Gino Marzzone.
An extremely classy and assured film in every respect and after Bound, the Wachowski’s would go on to make a little movie called The Matrix. Things would never be the same again.
Bound is presented in the original aspect of 1.85:1 and is an AVC encoded, 1080p Blu-ray, running at a healthy plus 30 Mbps bitrate. To me, although it’s a dark film, (hey, it’s a noir) it looks fabulous, with rich reds, deep blacks and natural skin tones. Sourced from a pre-existing master tape, the film does have little specks and spots on occasion but it’s barely noticeable and, short of an all new transfer, this is the best Bound will look for now.
Arrow have provided two audio tracks to choose from and, as always, when a film doesn’t actually necessitate the, provided, all singing, all dancing 5.1 mix, I prefer the plain old lossless 2.0 stereo track. To be fair, the DTS-HD master audio track is perfectly fine. I just prefer the traditional stereo soundtrack when there are no bullets, lasers, planes or spaceships flying around to require any additional speakers.
Monsieur Arrow, you are spoiling us with your selection of extras. A very decent package for an exemplary movie kicks off with a cracking commentary track with the Wachowski’s, Tilly, Gershon, Pantoliano, editor Zach Staenberg and consultant Susie Bright. (A feminist writer and sex educator, hired as an extra but eventually acting as a sex consultant for the lesbian sex scenes in the movie!) This commentary is exceptional, informative and a great laugh. Highly recommended.
Next up are all new interviews with Tilly and Gershon, Pantoliano and Christopher Meloni who plays the smug gangster Johnny in the film. The interviews amount to about an hour of material and it’s interesting to see the actors nowadays and gratifying that they all remember the film enthusiastically.
Another brand new feature is Modern Noir: The Sights and Sounds of Bound which is a lovely little piece covering the conception and making of the film. Featuring contributions from cinematographer, Bill Pope, composer Don Davis and editor Zach Staenberg, this is a fairly comprehensive 30 minutes.
Two standard making of featurettes are included but these are short, sharp EPK type affairs and mostly pointless, except from a nostalgic viewpoint and finally, we have the usual, U.S. TV spots, trailers and stills gallery to investigate.
I had never actually heard of Bound before the BD came up for review but I am now so glad to have found it. A thrillingly taut little noir film, looking great in HD with a very respectable selection of special features. Get tied up in Bound now!