In 1991, eight years before they blew everyone’s minds with The Matrix and 24 years before their sizzling sex scenes in Sense 8, the Wachowskis wrote, directed and produced Bound — a smart, sexy and stylish queer crime caper that hinted at the artistry, action, suspense and unabashed sexuality that would appear in their later work.
With the recent release of Sense8 Season 2, we’re taking a second look at Bound to examine why it became such a beloved, modern queer cinema classic. And if you haven’t seen Bound yet, don’t worry: The following look back is entirely spoiler-free.
What’s Bound about?
In Bound, Gina Gershon plays Corky, an ex-convict turned plumber fixing up a swank apartment building for her mob-connected building owner. At the start of the film, she meets Violet (Jennifer Tilly), a Betty Boop-style mafia girlfriend who rubs up against Corky ultra-hard.
Of course, Corky is suspicious of Violet: Why would a mafia girlfriend come after a blue collar plumber who snakes filth out of toilet drains for a living? But then, after we see Caesar help torture a man within an inch of his life, we understand — Violet is a sex kitten, but she’s also a human horrified by Caesar’s brutality. She wants a way out.
Violet has an escape plan, one that involves over $2 million in freshly washed and ironed bills (talk about money laundering), but Corky isn’t sure whether she can trust her. After all, Violet could just be a femme fatale looking to screw over her mobster boyfriend by playing on Corky’s butch lesbian desire.
What makes the film so great?
Although it sounds like your typical mob movie with lesbian titillation thrown in for cishet male viewers, it’s anything but. From its opening scene slowly falling down Violet’s closet in a continuous panning shot that makes her hat boxes and skin-tight dresses seem more like a modern city than a wardrobe, Bound quickly proves itself as a tightly constructed (and unexpectedly funny) lesbian noir with incredible camerawork, solid acting by the entire cast and tight pacing that’ll keep you feeling empathizing with Violet, Corky and Caesar as their high-stakes game take several reversals of fortune.
The film’s two sex scenes are unabashedly hot (yet tasteful). Though the directors had to cut some out to avoid a box-office killing NC-17 rating, the scenes retain raw tension and chemistry that literally leaves one character dripping wet and begging for more.
After establishing their motives at the outset, the film never reduces its characters to simple sex or violence. Each one emerges fully fleshed out with needs, desires and fears that we can relate to.
The only potential downside for some viewers might be the film’s brutal violence and gunplay — they foreshadow the unhappy consequences that await each character if things don’t go their way. But the violence can be seen as “comically excessive” or “Tarantino-like,” and even these scenes are styled and edited in an artistic way.
You could almost watch the entire film with the volume off and still have a clear idea of exactly what’s happening, a testament to the Wachowskis’ expressive visual style and mastery over cinematic storytelling.