Bound – Criterion UHD Blu-ray Review

5 Stars Wachowskis' spin on the neo-noir genre debuts on UHD Blu-ray
Bound Blu-ray Screenshot Review

Today we’ll look at Bound. Before entering the film industry, Lana and Lilly Wachowski – when they were known as Larry and Andy prior to their respective gender transitions – worked in the house painting and construction industry in their native Chicago and even briefly worked as comic book writers for Marvel in the early 1990’s. They entered into Hollywood in 1994 with their script for Assassins (1995), but the experience of having their script reworked by director Richard Donner and screenwriter Brian Helgeland convinced the duo to strike out on their own as directors. With the blessing of executive producer Dino De Laurentiis (as well as financial support) – and taking some inspiration from the legendary Billy Wilder – the Wachowskis made their directorial debut with the neo-noir thriller Bound. Previously released on Blu-ray by Olive Films, Criterion has licensed the movie from Paramount Pictures – the film’s current rights holder – for its UHD Blu-ray debut.

Bound (1996)
Released: 04 Oct 1996
Rated: R
Runtime: 109 min
Director: Lana Wachowski, Lilly Wachowski
Genre: Crime, Thriller
Cast: Jennifer Tilly, Gina Gershon, Joe Pantoliano
Writer(s): Lilly Wachowski, Lana Wachowski
Plot: Tough ex-con Corky and her lover Violet concoct a scheme to steal millions of stashed mob money and pin the blame on Violet's crooked boyfriend Caesar.
IMDB rating: 7.3
MetaScore: 61

Disc Information
Studio: Paramount
Distributed By: Criterion Collection
Video Resolution: 2160p HEVC w/HDR
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Audio: English 5.1 DTS-HDMA
Subtitles: English SDH
Rating: Not Rated
Run Time: 1 Hr. 48 Min.
Package Includes: UHD, Blu-ray
Case Type: Clear keep case
Disc Type: UHD
Region: A
Release Date: 06/18/2024
MSRP: $49.95

The Production: 4.5/5

Released from prison after serving a 5-year sentence, lesbian ex-convict Corky (Gina Gershon) gets a job as a plumber at an upscale Chicago apartment when she meets Violet (Jennifer Tilly), the girlfriend of money launderer Ceasar (Joe Pantoliano). As Violet and Corky are drawn closer to each other, opportunity falls into their lap in the form of $2,000,000 of money that a mob associate stole from the “family”. Corky hatches a plan to get both the money and Violet, while pitting the unbalanced Ceasar against his own associates; the plan might just work, if Ceasar doesn’t catch on to what’s really going on behind his back!

A unique spin on the noir genre, Bound not only pays tribute to the genre it riffs on but does it in its own bold way. The Wachowskis not only are influenced here by the works of Billy Wilder and Alfred Hitchcock, but also has influence of Quentin Tarantino’s work as well throughout the proceedings; the decision to play the well-worn “ex-convict getting involved in a love triangle” troupe from a LGTBQ angle brought a fresh perspective (definitely in regards to showing a realistic lesbian relationship on the screen) to a genre that had – for the most part – mostly avoided showing it directly from a visual standpoint (although some films did hint at it through their dialogue – see Desert Fury (1947) as one example how filmmakers were able to sneak it past the Production Code during the Golden Age of Noir). And the film doesn’t disappoint visually either: cinematographer Bill Pope provides a great sense of atmosphere to the story while the Wachowskis bring the Hong Kong style of action filmmaking to the genre with a dizzying array of well-choreographed camera acrobatics to bring a fresh sense of dynamism to the genre; they also get great performances from the cast as well, too. With a great sense of both style and substance, Bound is an auspicious debut for the Wackowskis, who brought a sense of playfulness to the neo-noir while also bringing a fresh and exciting new perspective to the genre; their follow-up film, the blockbuster sci-fi The Matrix (1999), proved that their emergence as a filmmaking duo in Hollywood was certainly no fluke.

In her first film following the infamous Showgirls (1995), Gina Gershon has a remarkable comeback part here as Corky, the ex-con whose past experience in crime proves useful when Violet enlists her help in pilfering the $2 million; though initially brough in to play the role of Violet, Gershon switched to playing Corky upon the casting of Jennifer Tilly. As Violet, Tilly – recently fresh off of an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress in Woody Allen’s Bullets Over Broadway (1994) – has one of the best performances in her career as the seductive moll with eyes for the ex-con; greater recognition and fame awaited her following this movie, portraying and voicing Tiffany Valentine, the girlfriend of the killer doll Chucky in Bride of Chucky (1998), as well as providing the voice of Bonnie Swanson on TV’s Family Guy. Nearly walking away with the film from both Gershon and Tilly, Joe Pantoliano brings an anarchic energy to the part of Ceasar, the money launderer who finds himself caught in the middle between his mob cohorts and the two lovers scheming to break away from him; already known as a premium character actor, Pantoliano would reunite with the Wackowskis on The Matrix. Rounding out the cast here are Christopher Merloni as the hotheaded Johnnie Marzzone, Barry Kivel as the ill-fated Shelly, John P. Ryan as Mickey Malnato, Vanishing Point director Richard C. Sarafian as Gino Marzzone (Johnnie’s father), Kevin Michael Richardson as a Chicago police officer called to Ceasar’s apartment and feminist/sex educator Susie Bright – who also was a consultant on the film’s intimacy scenes – as one of the women Corky talks to in the bar before being interrupted by a police officer.

Video: 5/5

3D Rating: NA

The uncut and unrated international version of the film is presented in its original 1:85:1 aspect ratio, taken from a brand new HDR transfer from a 4K digital master created from the original 35mm camera negative and 35mm interpositive, supervised by cinematographer Bill Pope; on the UHD Blu-ray disc, the film is presented in HDR while the Blu-ray disc presents the film in SDR. Film grain, color palette and fine details appear to be faithfully represented with minimal cases of issues like scratches, tears and dirt present on the transfer on both UHD Blu-ray and Blu-ray discs. Overall, this release is likely the best the movie will ever look on home video and easily surpasses all previous home video editions of the movie.

Audio: 5/5

The film’s original 5.1 surround soundtrack is presented on a DTS-HD Master Audio track, remastered from the files of the digital master. Dialogue, sound mix and Don Davis’ music score are all presented faithfully with minimal cases of distortion like crackling, popping and hissing present on the track on both UHD Blu-ray and Blu-ray discs. Again, this release is likely the best the movie will ever sound on home video and easily surpasses all previous editions of the movie on DVD and Blu-ray.

Special Features: 5/5

Commentary from 1997 by directors Lana & Lilly Wachowski, actors Gina Gershon, Jennifer Tilly and Joe Pantoliano, film editor Zach Staenberg and technical consultant Susie Bright – The Wachowskis, Gershon, Tilly, Pantoliano, Staenberg and Bright reflect on making the movie and their fresh memories of making the film in this track originally recorded for the film’s initial DVD release.

Pipeline to Seduction (16:45) – Film critic Christina Newland looks at how the movie subverts the typical roles often seen in noirs in this brand new video essay created for this release.

The Difference Between You and Me (13:55) – Film scholars B. Ruby Rich and Jennifer Moorman discuss how the movie both plays with the conventions of noir while also sticking with it in its own way in this archival featurette from the Olive Signature Blu-ray.

Here’s Johnnie! (9:53) – Christopher Merloni reflects on playing the loose cannon Johnnie in this archival interview from 2014 and previously included on the Olive Signature Blu-ray.

Femmes Fatales (26:38) – Gina Gershon and Jennifer Tilly fondly look back playing Corky and Violet in this archival featurette from 2014 and previously included on the Olive Signature Blu-ray.

Hail Ceasar (15:05) – Joe Pantoliano talks about playing Ceasar and his work with the Wachowskis in this 2014 interview which was previously included on the Olive Signature Blu-ray release.

Modern Noir: The Sights and Sounds of Bound (29:00) – Editor Staenberg, composer Don Davis and cinematographer Bill Pope discuss how they helped to achieve the film’s distinctive visual and aural style in the archival featurette from the Olive Signature Blu-ray.

Part and Parcel (6:50) – Patti Podesta talks about her work on the film’s title sequence in this archival interview from the 2018 Olive Signature Blu-ray.

U.S. and International Theatrical Trailers (4:51)

Foldout feat. an essay by scholar McKenzie Wark

Overall: 5/5

Earning some praise from critics upon initial release, Bound represents a unique departure from the standard tropes of the neo-noir genre and an assured directorial debut from The Wachowskis. Criterion has likely delivered the definitive home video edition of the movie, with a stellar HDR transfer and a slate of new and legacy special features delving into the many interesting facets of the film and its production. Very highly recommended and absolutely worth upgrading from previous home video editions.

Mychal has been on the Home Theater Forum’s reviewing staff since 2018, with reviews numbering close to 300. During this time, he has also been working as an assistant manager at The Cotton Patch – his family’s fabric and quilting supplies business in Keizer, Oregon. When not working at reviewing movies or working at the family business, he enjoys exploring the Oregon Coast, playing video games and watching baseball in addition to his expansive collection of movies on DVD, Blu-ray and UHD, totalling over 3,000 movies.

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Jeffrey D

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Jeffrey D Hanawalt
Thank you for the review, Mychal. I saw this forever ago, and the one thing I remember is one of the funniest camera tracking shots in any film- there’s a shot of a phone cord going from the wall to the phone, and the camera follows the cord around a loop. Completely unnecessary, but hilarious.
 
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