Bound (Blu-ray Review)

  • Reviewed by: Dennis Seuling
  • Review Date: Jun 24, 2024
  • Format: Blu-ray Disc
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Bound (Blu-ray Review)


The Wachowskis

Release Date(s)

1996 (June 18, 2024)


Dino De Laurentiis/Spelling Films (The Criterion Collection – Spine #1220)
  • Film/Program Grade: A
  • Video Grade: A+
  • Audio Grade: A
  • Extras Grade: A

Bound (Blu-ray)

Buy it Here!


Bound offers many elements of film noir, but with a twist—the lead characters are women and the supporting characters are men.

Corky (Gina Gershon), recently released from prison, and Violet (Jennifer Tilly), a moll, notice each other in an elevator and feel an immediate attraction. Soon they begin an affair that they must keep secret. Violet has been living with the gangster Caesar (Joe Pantoliano) for five years.

After witnessing the torture of a man who was foolish enough to steal money from the mob, Violet wants out. The opportunity presents itself when Caesar brings home a suitcase filled with $2 million of the mob’s money. She and Corky hatch a plan to steal it. The film builds gradually to a series of crescendos involving violence, confrontations, close calls, and twists, always with a driving energy that keeps the viewer transfixed.

The first feature directed by the Wachowskis, Bound is a neo-noir with tough guys, sex, a heist, and constant danger. The script isn’t exactly original (we’ve seen similar heist flicks before), but the treatment is unique. In typical noirs of the post-World War II era, a femme fatale worked her charms to induce a man to plan a murder or robbery, driving him to his ultimate downfall. Bound tosses out that structure and instead centers the romantic relationship on two women who are much sharper than the thugs they intend to outsmart. They recognize that discretion and stealth are the keys to the success of their plan.

Made on a fairly small budget, the film looks great, with Bill Pope’s thoughtful, mood-drenched photography characterized by deep shadows, oblique angles, extreme close-ups, and odd framing, suggesting noirs of the late 40s and early 50s.

Performances are uniformly excellent, with Ms. Tilly and Ms. Gershon shouldering the heavy lifting. Both women convey the bond between their characters through looks that reveal their unspoken thoughts.

Joe Pantoliano is impressive as Caesar, a thug who’s loyal to the mob, protective of its money, but oblivious to the theft being plotted under his nose. There are no scenes of affection between Caesar and Violet. He’s gotten used to having her around and gruffly orders her about. He resents any advice she offers and lashes out, his macho ego threatened.

Christopher Meloni also gives a standout performance as Johnnie, the hot-headed son of a big-time mafioso and an integral part of the women’s plot. Violent, smarmy, with an arrogant sense of entitlement because of his connections, he’s no intellectual match for Corky and Violet.

Bound was shot by director of photography Bill Pope on 35 mm film with Arriflex cameras and spherical lenses, processed photochemically, and presented in the aspect ratio of 1.85:1. The Criterion Collection brings the film to Blu-ray (as well as 4K Ultra HD) with a new 4K digital master of the unrated international version of Bound, supervised by Bill Pope, that was “created from the 35 mm original camera negative and a 35 mm interpositive in some sections.”

Criterion’s Blu-ray release is a noticeable improvement over the 2018 Olive Films Blu-ray. Colors are more vivid and details are sharper. The bloodier scenes, in particular, have a greater visual impact. There are slow dolly shots that move into extreme close-ups for dramatic effect. The paper-thin walls that separate the apartments of Violet and Corky play an important role as a barrier to things almost but not quite within reach. In one shot, an overhead camera shows Violet and Corky on opposite sides of that wall. A climactic scene involves a long staircase that seems to go on endlessly, its banisters and balusters casting long shadows on the walls. Details in Caesar’s ties, the wallpaper in the Corky’s apartment, splatters of blood, and a close-up of a handgun are well delineated. Overall, the picture quality is exceptional.

The original English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio surround soundtrack, according to information in the enclosed booklet, was remastered from the digital master files. Dialogue is clear and distinct. Sound effects include shouting heard through a wall, gun shots, a man’s head being bashed against a toilet, glass shattering, and a car peeling out.

The Criterion Collection presents Bound on both Blu-ray and 4K Ultra HD, the latter also available a 2-Disc set that contains the same Blu-ray presentation. Both editions contain the following bonus materials:

  • Audio Commentary by the Wachowskis
  • New Video Essay by Film Critic Christina Newland (16:45)
  • Interview with Gina Gershon and Jennifer Tilly (26:38)
  • Interview with Joe Pantoliano (15:05)
  • Interview with Christopher Meloni (9:53)
  • Modern Noir (29:00)
  • Playing with Expectations (13:55)
  • Title Design (6:50)
  • Trailers (2 in all – 4:51)

Audio Commentary – This commentary from 1997 features the Wachowskis; actors Joe Pantoliano, Jennifer Tilly, and Gina Gershon; film editor Zach Staenberg; and technical consultant Susie Bright. Their wide-ranging discussion covers all facets of the film’s pre-production, filming, and post-production. Details of casting, problems during the shoot, the Wachowskis’ directing style, difficulties getting the film picked up by a major studio, the audience reaction, and the lasting impact of Bound are explored.

Interview with Gina Gerson and Jennifer Tilly – Gershon says her agent advised her not to do the film, but she was so impressed with the character of Corky that she accepted the role. Jennifer Tilly also felt the script was smart and well written. Tilly originally wanted to play Corky but Linda Hamilton had already been offered the part. Gershon hit it off with the Wachowskis and they wanted to see her and Tilly together. Tilly was taking taekwando lessons and preparing for the role of Corky but the directors always saw her as Violet. Gershon worked at not being overly physical but conveying her thoughts through expression. “It was very controlled.” The two stars talk about their characters and their approach to the roles. Both women had to convey their characters’ vulnerability. Lesbianism was not commonly portrayed in films at the time, which made Bound controversial. The Wachowskis were thoroughly prepared. The film was well thought out and organized, and they were pleased with how it turned out. Despite favorable notices, the film didn’t last long in theaters due to the unusual subject matter and poor marketing. Bound has since become a cult classic.

Interview with Joe Pantoliano – Pantoliano says that he takes a role based on the filmmakers he’ll be working with. He had done Risky Business, The Goonies, and The Fugitive when Bound came along, so he was already an established actor. He read the script of Bound and liked it. The Wachowskis hired him because he agreed to a salary $25,000 less than another actor under consideration for the part. The Wachowskis asked Pantoliano to watch The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, a film that deals with the growing paranoia of its characters. He was inspired by the Wachowskis’ work ethic. Pantoliano says, “filmmaking is a series of compromises based on collaboration.” Bound was critically acclaimed and was especially popular with lesbian women. The film marked Pantoliano’s first film lead.

Interview with Christopher Meloni – The character of Johnnie was out of control; nobody wanted to be around Johnnie. At this point in Meloni’s career, any role was welcome. The co-directors had their own style, melding graphic novels with the best of Hong Kong cinema. The murder of Caesar took five hours to rig. In the scene when Johnnie tortures another man, the other actor was accidentally hurt. Meloni was in awe of what the Wachowskis were producing. Bound gave him confidence. “It was a great experience.”

Modern Noir – In this featurette, director of photography Bill Pope, editor Zach Staenberg, and composer Don Davis discuss Bound and their contributions. It wasn’t a typical script and included no over-the-top special effects. Pope replaced the original cinematographer, who quit after learning he would have to work with very limited resources. Because the Wachowskis were under contract to Dino De Laurentiis, he was offered Bound first, but passed. When the screenplay was put on the open market, there were four offers and De Laurentiis wound up producing it. The film’s budget was one million dollars. After Jennifer Tilly was cast, the producers were able to raise more money. The final budget was $3.5 million. The Wachowskis are so much in sync that talking to one is like talking to both. The bedroom scene involved the directors yelling directions as the camera circled the bed and grips removing walls and replacing them to accommodate the moving camera. The preferred take of this scene was deemed to too explicit. Pope believes a sex scene has to have a higher meaning in terms of plot progression. A lot of Bound plays with time and is a precursor of bullet time in The Matrix. Bound was a film the audience connected to and enabled the Wachowskis to get the job of directing The Matrix.

Playing with Expectations – Film scholars Jennifer Moorman and B. Ruby Rich share their observations about the Wachowskis’ play on gender roles and sexuality in Bound in this featurette from the 2018 Olive Films release.

Title Design – In this featurette, titled Part and Parcel, Patti Podesta describes how she created the movie’s title sequence, which required large three-dimensional letters, motion control camera, programmed lighting, and high contrast to connect with the style of graphic novels.

Trailers – Two trailers for Bound are presented, back to back.

Booklet – The enclosed accordion-style booklet contains the essay Be Gay, Do Crime by McKenzie Wark, color photos, a cast and crew list, and information about the new restoration.

Though this is an excellent set of bonus materials, a few things are missing from two of the previous Blu-ray releases of the film. The Region A Olive Films Blu-ray features the essay We Know How This Ends by filmmaker Guinevere Turner; and the Region B Arrow Video Blu-ray contains 2 Making Of featurettes, a Stills Gallery, 3 theatrical trailers (instead of two), and 2 TV spots.

When initially released, Bound may have received a lot of attention primarily because of the sex scene between Corky and Violet, but that’s not why the film has endured for nearly three decades. The screenplay by the Wachowskis is skillful and playful, the cinematography has a definite noir feel even though the film is in color, there’s a build-up of suspense that keeps us riveted, and the performances are all excellent. As heist films go, Bound propels a standard plot premise into unexpected territory.

- Dennis Seuling