There’s something special about watching Bound for the first time with the presence of one of the film’s directors, Lana Wachowshi, in the theater. Wachowski was present for a Q&A following the retrospective 35mm screening during the 2018 Cinepocalypse Genre Film Festival.
Bound, which marked the feature directorial debut for the Wachowski sisters, changes up the game for mob thrillers. Fronted by two women, Corky (Gina Gershon) and Violet (Jennifer Tilly), the men more or less take a back seat. When ex-con Corky and moll Violet first meet in the apartment building elevator, it soon becomes a game of will they or won’t they? Conveniently, Corky just happens to be working on the apartment next door to Caesar (Joe Pantoliano) and Violet. Violet wants a new life for herself after playing witness to the torture of Shelly (Barry Kivel) for stealing money.
Unbeknownst to Caesar, Corky and Violet start up a steamy affair. This is how Corky first learns about the $2 million locked up in a briefcase. Caesar keeps the briefcase in the open rather than doing the rational thing by storing it in a vault somewhere. Corky’s plan works up until the moment Caesar decides to open the case. He doesn’t suspect the women and immediately puts the blame on Johnnie. When Gino Marzzone (Richard C. Sarafian) and son, Johnnie (Christopher Meloni), stop by for the money, total chaos ensues!
Interestingly enough, Gershon and Tilly were cast to play the other’s character. It’s best for the film that they corrected this because I just can’t see Gershon playing Violet or Tilly playing Corky. It just wouldn’t work. Despite their two characters being in love, it isn’t a lesbian film in the traditional sense. A lesbian relationship in a mainstream–okay, indie–film was completely unheard of in 1996.
When one takes into account that Bound was made pre-transition, one can’t help but look for clues in the films. The Wachowskis’ identity struggle is certainly present in Bound. Not many men can write a film with lesbians at the forefront and write it this well. Of course, neither Lana or Lilly were men. They were women this entire time whether or not they suppressed or repressed their feelings at the time. This film was years before Lana Wachowski became the first major Hollywood director to have come out as a transgender woman. Just to be in the same room as her, let alone having the chance to meet and talk with Lana, is one of those moments that I will never forget.
Bound put the Wachowskis on the map as filmmakers and the film more than holds up some 22 years later.
DIRECTORS/SCREENWRITERS: Lana Wachowski and Lilly Wachowski
CAST: Jennifer Tilly, Gina Gershon, Joe Pantoliano, John Ryan
Following its world premiere at the 1996 Venice Film Festival, Gramercy Entertainment released Bound in theaters on October 4, 1996.