Last of the Monster Kids

Last of the Monster Kids
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Friday, September 14, 2012

Director Report Card: The Wachowskis (1996)

I've often found myself in the rare position of having to defend two of the most successful filmmakers in history. The general conscious with the Wachowski Siblings seems to be they changed the sci-fi and action landscape with "The Matrix" and then... Not much else of note. Well, I'm here to prove that belief wrong! There's at least a few more things of note. The two are certainly one of the quirkier mainstream filmmakers around. Their upcoming film, "Cloud Atlas," might actually be the most ambitious film in a career of wild ambition. But before we get to that, let's talk about their earlier films first?

1. Bound

“Bound” is a pretty awesome movie. The Wachowskis shot the film as a calling card, proof that they could tell a tight, involving, suspenseful story in an economic, exciting way while preserving their own style. Mission accomplished. The film limits its cast to three primary characters and places them in one location for the majority of the run time. Essentially, it boils down to three fantastic performances and one tight twisting story.

Before we get to all that stuff, let’s talk about what everyone talks about when the film comes up in conversation: This movie is ridiculously hot. You’ve got Jennifer Tilly, in her prime, squeezing all of her ample curves into slinky dresses and tiny lingerie. Gina Gershon, despite butching it up to look as masculine as possible, still can’t disguise the fact that she is a very attractive woman. The chemistry between the two is immediate. It starts as meaningful looks and eye flirting. The sexual tension builds and builds. The tension almost erupts during the incredibly hot tattoo touching scene but, even then, we are denied. Finally, when the lesbian love scene does come, it is absolutely intense. The movie doesn’t cut away; there are no slow pans to billowing curtains here. The direction is just shy of being explicit. Suffice to say, it’s one of the most erotic scenes ever to be put down in a mainstream film.

All right, about the rest of the movie: it’s pretty good too. After our principal cast is established, the main plot gets rolling. How the scheme unfolds makes up the rest of the film. It starts out so simple. So simple in fact, the situation is actually being explained to us as it happens, the planning stages being inter-cut with the actual execution. Oh, but everything that can go wrong will go wrong.

Joey Panteloney is so intense here. Yeah, it’s not like he hasn’t played a nervous gangster before, but this has to be the definitive nervous gangster role. The moment when the plan starts to get ridiculously out of hand is so brilliant. The way time is slow down and the bullets fly through the air feels like a prototype for bullet-time. Gershon is removed for this large portion of the story, instead hiding behind apartment walls. Somehow, her predicament, to watch without being able to help, mirrors the audience’s perspective. We watch the situation spiral wildly out of control, with more and more roadblocks being thrown into the path.

The plot is expertly constructed, running smoothly the whole time but still feeling completely improvised. One of the most fascinating things about the film is figuring out where everyone’s loyalties lies. Joey is a stressed out beyond belief and just a hair shy of loosing it, any minute now. (Which he does several times.) Corky is sticking to her guns and knows how not to screw up a good plan. But Violet is the real wild card. Is she only in it for her self? In the end, is she going to screw over everyone and walk away with the money? You’re not sure until the movie is over. This suspense even extends to minor characters. How much do they know? Who is going to do what now? Ultimately, it wraps up in one of the most statisfying endings I’ve seen in recent memory.

“Bound” works so well as a thriller. It sets up suspense brilliantly and over and over again. It’s a smart, sleek, ridiculously sexy flick. People who only know the Wachowski’s from “The Matrix” franchise need to give this gem a look. [Grade: A-]


Sean Catlett said...

Ohhhhh these two...

Yeah, Bound is good. Part noir, part fetishistic exploitation. It seems to work. And it's interesting that when given a chance to prove themselves, they use the film as a preview of their own talent, a pitch for what they can do with their Matrix script. Ballsy (zing) and it worked out pretty well. Until they went insane, that is.

Bonehead XL said...

The insanity is the best part.