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Woman Trouble

Bound promises a lesbian revenge thriller starring quirky actress Jennifer Tilly and she-came-from-Showgirls vamp Gina Gershon. Given that over-the-top setup, the average American woman might reasonably hope for girlie-girl entertainment on par with watching the Miss America broadcast at a drunken slumber party. Cornball, camp and obscenely stupid attempts at style are what we expect, and we expect to watch the spectacle with unwholesome yet healing giggles.

Sorry, only the first 20 minutes are fun. Gershon plays a recently released felon who takes a handyman job in a small but exclusive Chicago apartment building. One of the tenants is Violet (Tilly), the well-kept mistress of a low-level goon (Joe Pantoliano) climbing the Mafia ladder. These dark-eyed brooding girls meet in the elevator and fall in love. (The lesbian sex scenes are gratuitous, of course, but after a bit of "on your elbows, sister!" action, the story starts up again.)

The lovers hatch a plot -- a great plot, too. Violet wants to get out of the life, she just can't stand no more. She has the first part of the plan: she knows that her man will be holding two million in cash in their apartment overnight. Her lover comes up with the rest of the scam, which gratifyingly depends on stupid alpha-male posturing.

Our heroines' design is exquisite; the movie's execution is another thing. Bound was written and directed by the Wachowski brothers, Andy and Larry, whose sole previous experience seems to be that they wrote Assassins. Perhaps more significantly, Bound was produced by Dino De Laurentiis (Conan the Barbarian, Death Wish, King Kong). Given those credits, it's surprising the film is as much fun as it is for as long as it is.

When problems appear, they are impossible to ignore. For one thing, Gershon's dyke is called Corky. Corky! It's a name for some corn-fed brat on MTV's The Real World, not for a sullen safecracker with chin-length bangs. Another problem is that Tilly doesn't wear anything interesting. She's supposed to be a well-kept mistress -- she runs around saying, "What you heard wasn't sex, it was work," and being manhandled by, yes, men -- and yet she doesn't even have enviable shoes. She wears all-but-identical little black cocktail dresses (okay, except for a barely different red one), and a watch. That's it. That she wears a watch at all, and not a dress watch, has some charm, but, you know, about the same time you notice she's always wearing the watch you realize that there you are, hunkered down in the dark with your friends, halfway through a box of Sour Patch Kids, and this movie is not going to be interesting. Not as a revenge plot or even as a fashion show. And then the thing gets worse.

When the brothers Wachowski lose track of whatever woman-pleasing made-for-Lifetime weirdness they achieved, they get ugly. About third of the way through, Andy and Larry, under the loving auspices of Dino (who is basically an exploitation filmmaker, if you think about it), ditch the girl stuff and go for gore. As an unfortunate, pilfering bookkeeper is being tortured by mob goons, we have to watch the blood splatting on clean white bathroom tiles, and we have to watch poor Violet wincing as she hears the doomed man beg blah blah blah, and we can't help but notice that the brothers didn't even bother with decent foley work.

Me, I don't go for brutality. But if American ticket buyers are demanding flicks in which thugs clip off a finger with pruning shears, then those American ticket buyers should hear the finger snipped -- the slippery noise of steel cutting through flesh, a brief, excruciating grinding as the blades hit bone and then a gristle-snapping pop as the finger is lopped off. And Bound doesn't deliver.

The movie is just plain tacky -- and not because of the cheesy lesbian sex scenes. Worse, it's because the filmmakers are cheap and lazy and don't make good on any of their promises. Bound could've been a deliciously twisted women's movie; it could have been a tight-plotted thriller; or it could have been a goomba thug-fest. But it isn't any of those things. And no, despite what you might expect from the ads, Bound does not have a Diabolique-like twist. No plot twist, and no interesting clothes, either.

Bound.
Directed by Andy and Larry Wachowski. With Gina Gershon, Jennifer Tilly and Joe Pantoliano.

Rated R.
109 minutes.

 
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