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Movie Review: Revisiting Filmmakers' Debuts Can Expose Early Potential

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In 1996, three years before Lana and Lilly Wachowski changed the movie world forever with The Matrix, they made their debut with a film that now must seem kind of quaint in its modesty, but is no less entertaining than any of the gargantuan movies they made in the decades after.

It’s a zippy little neo-noir called Bound, starring Gina Gershon and Jennifer Tilly as two lovers who conspire to steal a couple million dollars from Tilly’s mobster boyfriend. Gershon and Tilly have probably never been better, playing parts that seem to have been written just for them—Gershon as a tough, aggressive ex-con, Tilly as the perpetually breathy femme fatale who leads Gershon down a very dangerous path.

Bound is not at all shy about sex, coming more or less toward the tail end of a major era for erotic thrillers, although frankly this is kind of refreshing, given how afraid most movies are today of any hint of real sexuality. And while I hesitate to place the movie in any kind of major historical context, it does seem at least a little significant that it makes the central, explicit relationship between two women, especially in such a macho genre.

But maybe the most surprising thing about Bound is how small it is, given everything the Wachowskis made afterward—Speed Racer, Cloud Atlas, Jupiter Ascending… these aren’t exactly chamber plays. Bound, on the other hand, takes place basically in just a couple of rooms. You could legitimately call it Hitchockian in the way it builds its tension, especially in how it places certain objects within the frame, showing us that things could explode at any moment, but building the anxiety by putting that off. And even more, it hints at their much, much larger innovations to come, with some delightfully clever camerawork and a few visual jokes that tip us off to the Wachowskis’ dazzling creativity. One of the best things about going back to watch major filmmakers’ first movies is seeing the potential they eventually fulfill, and with the Wachowskis, and Bound, you can’t miss it.

Fletcher Powell's biggest claim to fame is that he owns a copy of every Bo Jackson baseball card ever made. He's done other things, too, like work in the stock market, but that wasn't so fun. So now he's KMUW’s Production Manager and host of All Things Considered, as well as KMUW's movie reviewer and producer/co-host of the podcast You're Saying It Wrong.