The fateful first encounter between the co-protagonists of Bound—Jennifer Tilly’s femme (albeit not necessarily fatale) mob moll Violet and Gina Gershon’s (comparatively) butch thief Corky—is brilliantly composed by cinematographer Bill Pope. As the two women exchange fleeting, flirtatious glances, their matching closeups condense the space surrounding them, isolating the pair and reducing the world that they inhabit to an indistinct blur, as though their blossoming relationship is the only thing that truly matters. The illusion of intimacy, however, is abruptly shattered by a wide overhead shot, which reveals that the characters are actually occupying opposite ends of a surprisingly roomy elevator, with Joe Pantoliano’s sleazy gangster situated directly between them—elegantly (almost subliminally) establishing the story’s central conflict barely thirty seconds into the 110-minute running time.
Released just three years before The Matrix launched their careers, Bound is the Wachowskis’ answer to the Coen Brothers’ Blood Simple—a lean, mean postmodern masterpiece that deconstructs its chosen genre by boiling it down to its essential elements, playing its associated tropes and clichés with utter sincerity, and trimming away any excess fat. Indeed, despite its sapphic twist, this steamy neo-noir rarely deviates from the familiar narrative formula—a bare bones, no-nonsense approach that allows the filmmakers’ style to emerge as the movie’s ultimate substance, its raison d’être. And while it never quite delves into the delirious maximalism that would come to define the siblings’ later work (see: Speed Racer, Cloud Atlas), Bound features enough dynamic camerawork and bold framing to sustain the script’s taut, minimalistic plot and deliciously suspenseful atmosphere.
It is, in short, a perfectly calibrated thriller.