Bound (UK - DVD R2 | BD RB)
Chris checks out Arrow Video's Blu-ray release of the Wachowski's first feature
Gina Gershon (Showgirls, Face/Off) plays Corky, a young woman recently released from a five-year jail term for, as she puts it, the “redistribution of wealth”. After a brief lift encounter with her sexy and sultry neighbour Violet (Jennifer Tilly) the pair strike up a steamy love affair under the nose of Violet’s unhinged Mafia boyfriend Ceasar (Joe Pantoliano). Soon the two women are hatching a plot to steal $2 million from Ceasar and his associates – but if you’re going to mess with the mob, you’d better be sure you do it right… (Taken from the official synopsis.)
The first and only other time I have watched Bound was over ten years ago on DVD and I hardly remember a thing about the experience, so watching this Arrow Blu-ray release was akin to seeing the film for the first time. I’d have liked more time to offer a few thoughts on the film itself, but unfortunately we received our review copy very late so there just wasn’t the time to complete the technical side of the review and write anything resembling a comprehensible critique of the narrative (I’m far too ponderous a writer for that). I’ll throw in a few cursory observations in the summary for those who are interested, but this is more of a technical take on the release than anything else. With that in mind, here’s what the accompanying booklet has to say about the source material:
Quote: Bound was transferred from original pre-print elements by Paramount Pictures in the USA. This was supplied to Arrow Films as a High Definition digital file by Lionsgate. The film is presented in the original 1.85:1 widescreen aspect ratio with a choice of 5.1 Surround and Stereo audio.
As you can see from the above Bound isn’t one of Arrow’s in-house transfers, but it’s among the better licenced ones. It’s not a ‘reference’ title, but there’s a good level of detail on show here and the odd bit of softness appears to be inherent to the source material rather than an issue with the transfer. Indeed, there’s a healthy dose of grain on display, and although the palette appears largely monochromatic the more colourful scenes are superbly rendered (especially the deep reds and natural flesh tones). Importantly for the noir style, blacks are rich and inky, while contrast is spot on. On the negative side there are a few speckles and scratches here and there, but nothing terribly obtrusive or unsightly. As is usual for Arrow the encode itself is very solid, with no obvious compression issues like banding or blocking rearing their ugly heads.
I can’t say how it stacks up to the likes of the French, Japanese or US releases from first-hand experience, but from what I’ve seen of a well-known screen capture website it looks very similar to the French effort (right down to the framing, which is much tighter than the DVD). In fact it looks a little better than the French disc, with more natural colours and ever-so-slightly tighter compression. While the framing does loose information at the sides and bottom of the frame in comparison to the DVD, you’d have to be intimately familiar with the film or performing an A/B comparison to notice. In short, it’s not much of an issue, and this is a very pleasing presentation of a visually stylish feature.
The disc offers a choice between DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and LPCM 2.0 Surround audio, and I went with the former for my viewing. The 5.1 track is predominantly forward oriented, with centrally rooted dialogue that is intelligible save for one or two moments where it is intentionally indistinct. However, there are times when the mix opens up into quite an expansive affair, particularly during the moments when Don Davis’s (unmistakably familiar) score swells for dramatic effect. There are even a few sound effects that find their way into the surrounds, such as the stylistic whooshing that accompanies characters as they move through hallways, the sound of bullets ricocheting, and Caesar’s nervous, thumping heartbeat. While bass isn’t particularly earth-shattering (by design), it is a suitably reassuring presence when called upon, with the aforementioned heartbeat and Ceasar’s gunfire serving as highlights (the last example is particularly weighty). It’s true that the film’s sound design isn’t as adventurous as some, but it’s a very atmospheric affair that is extremely well represented on this Blu-ray.
- Audio commentary with writer/directors the Wachowskis, stars Jennifer Tilly, Gina Gershon, and Joe Pantoliano, Editor Zach Staenberg, and consultant Susie Bright
- Modern Noir: The Sights & Sounds of Bound – Interviews with director of Photography Bill Pope, Editor Zach Staenberg, and Composer Don Davis
- Femme Fatales: Interviews with Stars Gina Gershon & Jennifer Tilly
- Hail Caesar!: An Interview with actor Joe Pantoliano
- Here’s Johnny!: An Interview with actor Christopher Meloni
- Vintage EPK featurettes (US & International versions)
- Theatrical trailers
- TV spots
- Still gallery images
- Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork to be revealed!
- Collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film
The commentary track starts out as a bit of a mixed affair, offering some genuinely interesting insight into the production punctuated by long periods of silence and irrelevance, but it picks up as the film progresses. The most useful info comes from editor Zach Staenberg, who talks about the various set-ups, editing choices and other technicalities, while the Wachowskis and actors are more anecdotal in their approach, tending towards the jokey side of things (particularly Joey Pants). With that said, the combination works well and it’s an entertaining effort overall.
The featurettes are entirely new creations for this release, and they’re pretty interesting. My favourite has to be the ‘Modern Noir’ piece, which focusses more on the off-camera side of things with participants Bill Pope, Zach Staenberg and Don Davis. There’s some genuinely great stuff here that will delight those of you interested in the technical side of filmmaking. The ‘Femme Fatales’, Hail Caesar’ and ‘Here’s Johnny’ interviews are also very engaging, with the stars offering candid opinions on their roles and the film. I particularly enjoyed Joe Pantoliano’s interview, in which he discusses his working relationship with the Wachowskis.
The rest of the bonus material is a little more lightweight, but no less welcome for the sake of completeness. There are two vintage EPK featurettes, which share a lot of content but make for an interesting window into how films used to be marketed. The same goes for the slew of trailers and TV spots, all of which look positively quaint by today’s standards. The last on-disc extra is a still gallery, but of course you can also count the usual booklet and reversible sleeve among the extras (I really like the reverse artwork for this one). Oh, there's also a DVD copy thrown in for good measure!
My foggy memory had Bound pegged as an average thriller better known for its exploitative lesbian scenes than anything else. Obviously time had distorted my view of the movie, because it’s actually an above average feature that successfully blends its period noir elements with more modern sensibilities. It’s an extremely stylish piece of work featuring memorable performances (especially Joey Pants) and some inventive shots to set it apart from more run of the mill pictures (including some proto bullet time effects). To be completely honest, early sex scenes aside the gender and sexual orientation of the protagonists is largely incidental to the plot and not nearly as exploitative as I remember. I found myself enjoying Bound a lot more than I expected given my first impression all of those years ago, and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it to someone looking for a solid, stylish thriller.
Of course it almost goes without saying that this is another home run from Arrow. The visual presentation may not be completely perfect by the dictionary definition of the word, but it’s pretty damn good. The audio is similarly accomplished, and while I would have liked a longer retrospective making of featurette the bonus material that is included ticks all of the right boxes (particularly the commentary track). For my money this is the definitive edition of the movie, which is all you can really ask for. Well done Arrow!
* Note: The images below are taken from the Blu-ray and have been resized for the page. Full-resolution captures are available by clicking the individual images, but due to .jpg compression, they are not necessarily representative of the quality of the transfer.
Review by Chris Gould
Suitable only for persons of 18 years and over
Release Date: 18th August 2014
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English, LPCM 2.0 Stereo English
Subtitles: English SDH
Extras: Audio Commentary, Featurettes, Trailers, TV Spots, Still Gallery, Booklet
Easter Egg: No
Director: The Wachowskis
Cast: Jennifer Tilly, Gina Gershon, Joe Pantoliano, Christopher Meloni
Length: 109 minutes
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