• Bound (Olive Signature Series) Blu-ray Review

    Released by: Olive Films
    Released on: August 28th, 2018.
    Director: The Wachowskis
    Cast: Jennifer Tilly, Gina Gershon, Joe Pantoliano, John P. Ryan
    Year: 1996
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    Bound - Movie Review:

    The feature film directorial debut of Andy and Lana (at the time Laurence) Wachowski, 1996's Bound follows the exploits of Corky (Gina Gershon), a hard-living tough talking ex-con recently let out of prison who takes a new job as a maintenance person at an apartment building. Here she meets on of the tenants, Violet (Jennifer Tilly) - who lives with her mobster boyfriend Caesar (Joe Pantoliano). The relationship between Violet and Caesar isn't what it used to be and she's more or less over him and his ways. Before you know it, she and Corky are falling for one another pretty hard and having a steamy affair that results in the two putting together a clever plan that will simultaneously get Violet away from Corky and the mafia life she's fallen into and make the two lovely ladies a whole lot of money: scam the two million dollars in cash that Caesar has been asked to stash for mob boss Gino Marzzone (Richard C. Sarafian) and make it look like he made off with it. The catch? Well, Caesar is smarter than the ladies give him credit for.

    One of the best modern takes on film noir, Bound is a kick from start to finish. Though much has been made of the film's steamy lesbian sex scenes (and rightly so - they're hard to miss!), there is truthfully quite a bit more to this movie than just the Sapphic coupling of the two lead actresses. The script is very clever, working in all manner of twists and back stabbings throughout its running time to keep you guessing and easily hold your attention while some well-played moments of strong but never quite excessive feeling violence are used effectively to jolt us to attention when the film asks for it. What's most amazing about this is that none of the plot devices employed in the movie ever feel contrived or convenient, a testament to the strength of the writing here.

    On top of the story we've got three amazing performances to gush over as well. Gina Gershon is great as the tougher (at least on the outside) of the two females in the story. Her ex-con is a hard woman but clever enough to get this ball rolling. Her on screen chemistry with Tilly as the supposedly softer of the two ladies is tense and even palpable at times. Their romance feels passionate and dangerous and while the film may occasionally play up the taboo aspect of the lesbian side of things, the two actresses are rarely less than perfect in their roles. They nail it all here - the looks, the mannerisms, the body language and the dialogue. Also impressive here is Joe Pantoliano who really doesn't get as much credit as he deserves for this picture's success. His Caesar is expected to be set up as the patsy, the script puts everything in place for that to happen but the female characters and in turn the audience underestimate his survival instincts and as such, he's responsible for so much of the tension and surprise that the movie offers up in spades. Pantoliano makes all of this work, he's completely believable in the part and really and truly makes the role his own.

    All in all, it's a ridiculously good debut for the Wachowski's. For that reason, it's often compared to the Coen Brothers' Blood Simple - the fact that both films are noir inspired probably part of the reason that happens so much - but Bound stands on its own. The Wachowski's would go into very different places as their career progressed and hit new heights after the success of The Matrix movies, and Bound seems almost quiet compared to that trilogy. In many ways, however, it's their strongest effort to date. If it doesn't get the recognition that their bigger Hollywood productions have over the years, that's a shame.

    Bound – Blu-ray Review:

    Olive brings Bound back to Blu-ray (they released a barebones version a few years ago) in what is touted as a ‘new high-definition digital restoration.’ This is not the same transfer that was used when Arrow Films released the movie on Blu-ray in the UK (that release of Bound is reviewed here), the framing is slightly different with the Olive release having a bit more picture information than the Arrow. The colors are also different, a little brighter on the Olive disc, resulting in a hotter looking movie (whether that is an improvement or not is debatable. Either way, detail here is strong though it does look like there's been some sharpening done to the image. There’s nice texture and good depth to the picture, which appears free of obvious compression artifacts though some black crush can be spotted in many of the film's frequent darker scenes. That probably makes it sound worse than it is, this is more than watchable for sure, but it does leave room for improvement.

    Note that this disc includes both the R-rated and unrated versions of the movie, each given their own encode, though they both look more or less than same, taking up just over 17GBs of space each.

    The English language DTS-HD 2.0 Stereo track is strong. Optional English subtitles are provided. No issues here, the dialogue is fine. The score sounds quite good, with decent bass behind it at times, and there are no problems to report with any hiss or distortion. The DTS-HD 5.1 mix that has been available on other releases is not included on this release unfortunately.

    The extras on the disc start out with a really solid audio commentary, carried over from past releases, featuring the Wachowskis, cast members Jennifer Tilly, Gina Gershon, and Joe Pantoliano, editor Zach Staenberg, and consultant Susie Bright. This is a very active track with plenty of information that covers the experience of making Bound from both in front of and behind the camera. The Wachowskis talk about their influences, the writing process and getting the movie bankrolled while the cast members share some memories from the shoot and talk up their characters and what it was like to work on this picture together. There’s some good humor throughout here but at the same time this is well structured and very informative.

    From there, dig into Part And Parcel, an interview with titles designer Patti Podesta that runs seven minutes in length. She talks about getting her start in the business, who she got into creating titles and what went into creating the rather unique, stand out set of titles that were used in Bound.

    The Difference Between You And Me is an eighteen-minute interview with film studies and gender studies professors B. Ruby Rich and Jen Moorman that covers the film’s lesbian angle, its take on using traditional noir elements in a more modern setting, the style employed in the picture and the significance of the different roles in the film.

    Here’s Johnny! is a ten-minute interview with Christopher Meloni and again, he goes into quite a bit of detail about his relationship with his fellow cast members, the Wachowskis, the themes of the film and what it was like working on the picture.

    The twenty-seven-minute Femme Fatales piece that features Gina Gershon and Jennifer Tilly (interviewed separately) to talk about the importance of this film, their experiences as actresses being directed by the Wachowskis, the sexual aspects of their roles and the importance of Marlon Brando.

    The last featurettes is Modern Noir: The Sights And Sounds Of Bound which interviews DP Bill Pope, editor Zach Staenberg, and composer Don Davis separately for just short of a half an hour. There’s plenty of discussion here of the cinematography employed in the film and the specific look of the picture as well as the music and how it works in conjunction with the visuals and the storyline.

    Rounding out the extras on the disc is the film’s original theatrical trailer, menus and chapter selection.
    Like all of the other Olive Signature series releases, Bound comes packaged with a handsome slipcover and, inside the case, also includes an insert booklet that contains an essay on the film written by screenwriter/actress Guinevere Turner that covers the film’s importance in terms of how it depicted its lesbian characters and the impact that it had on LGBTQ cinema – interesting stuff.

    Note that the packaging indicates that Hail Caesar, an interview with Joe Patoliano, is included on the disc but that is not the case.

    Bound – The Final Word:

    Bound holds up incredibly well more than fifteen years after it brought the Wachowski's to a certain level of acclaim. It's a twisted and unconventional film that toys with our expectations and offers up a seriously delicious smattering of sex, violence, style and twisted dark humor. Olive Films has done a great job bringing this one back to Blu-ray for North American audiences, presenting the film in excellent shape on a disc stacked with extras.

    Click on the images below for full sized Bound Blu-ray review screen captures!