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'Bound' for Gory

By Rita Kempley
Washington Post Staff Writer
October 04, 1996

Coen brothers clones Andy and Larry Wachowski toy with film noir cliches in "Bound," a tongue-in-chic thriller with a double dose of femmes fatales. An arch and artsy update of the pulpy romances of the 1940s, the tale recalls "The Postman Always Rings Twice," except that John Garfield's straight handyman is replaced by Gina Gershon's lesbian handywoman.

Gershon, a Vegas diva in "Showgirls," flexes another set of muscles as Corky, a taciturn ex-con hired to fix up an apartment in a Mafia-owned building. Shortly after her arrival, Corky is seduced by Violet (Jennifer Tilly), a sexy moll with the voice of a Disney cartoon, who talks Corky into helping her trick her mobster sugar daddy, Ceasar (Joe Pantoliano), out of $2 million in freshly laundered bills.

Ceasar literally washes and irons the mob's blood-soaked booty in a daffy reference to his dangerous and dirty work. Other sight gags are courtesy of cinematographer Bill Pope, whose zany camera work captures this underground world from wry, wholly unexpected perspectives. In one case, Pope follows a phone call's progress through the wiring.

Ceasar is a worthy opponent for the women in love, but like "The Postman" and "Double Endemnity," this glossy neo-noir exploits and eventually deflates the male ego. The Wachowskis simply turn up the heat a notch. Corky and Vi aren't just wily double-crossers, they're feminist icons drunk on their own sense of empowerment. When he realizes he's been double-crossed, Ceasar confronts Vi: "What did she do to you?" he demands. "Everything you couldn't," Vi fires back.

"Bound," a diabolically clever caper, isn't nearly so deep as the genre it kids. Unlike the Coens' crimedy "Fargo" or Quentin Tarantino's "Pulp Fiction," the story depicts well-nigh unwatchable cruelty for its own sake. There's no moral to justify the grisly goings-on. Its only discernible theme: Love conquers all, even the Gambino family.

Bound is rated R for violence, nudity, sexuality and profanity.

© Copyright 1996 The Washington Post Company

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