Extended Description of “Bound” (1996)

Description by QMN regular Johnny Townsend:

GINA GERSON and JENNIFER TILLY star in “Bound” (1996) as two women who plot to steal $2 million from Tilly’s mob boyfriend, played by Joe Pantoliano. Written and directed by sisters Lana and Lilly Wachowski (better known for “The Matrix”), the film is compelling in ways most films about organized crime aren’t.

The leads are likable despite being as corrupt as the characters we view as villains. They may not do any actual killing or torture themselves (there are some rough scenes—this isn’t a comedy), but they’re fully aware their theft will result in death and disaster for others. Yet we still like them, partly because the other guys are worse and partly, I think, because we identify with them for their sexual orientation. They’re underdogs in multiple ways, and we can’t help rooting for them.

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The movie begins with the two women tied up in a closet. Things don’t look good. Then we get the flashback of events leading up to this crisis. And watch, riveted, as the women try to save themselves.

Gina Gershon, who has stated publicly she’s straight, not even bi, is thoroughly captivating as the tough lesbian just out of prison. Watching the movie for the first time, I had a similar experience as when watching “The Crying Game” a few years earlier. That was the first time I felt I “got” transgender women. (Jaye Davidson from that film identifies as a gay man.) Watching Gershon in “Bound,” I was turned on by a woman for the first and only time in my life. Jennifer Tilly’s character is more typically feminine, but she has a cold heart of steel. We’re never quite sure if she is truly in love with Gina or is a femme fatale.

The “caper” part of the film, where the two women go over their plan in detail, only to see it unravel at every step, feels fresh. What’s especially fun is to realize that neither woman is a damsel in distress. They both look for their own ways to escape and survive.

Near the end of the movie, we’re still unsure if the two women have genuine feelings for one another or are just using each other to get to the money. Might this be a “Maltese Falcon” moment? As they sit in the pickup truck with the money, Gina turns to Jennifer and says, “You know what the difference is between me and you?”

It sounds challenging, potentially judgmental, and Jennifer looks a bit nervous before responding. “No.”

Gina’s next line answers most of our questions, but I’ll leave you to hear it for yourself.

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