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Sunday, July 14, 2024

Bound (4K UHD Review)


The Film
The Video (Overall)
HDR Effect
The Audio
The Supplements


Ex-con Corky and her sultry lover Violet plot to steal millions of dollars from the mafia and frame Violet's mob-connected boyfriend in this 1990s neo-noir.

Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

The Wachowskis’ first film, Bound (1996), was a genre-subverting neo-noir thriller that helped to spur on the neo-noir movement in the 1990s. Starring Gina Gershon as a tough ex-con, Corky, and Jennifer Tilly as the sexy Violet, girlfriend to mafia money laundering gangster Caesar (Joe Pantoliano), the film follows the story of the two women who form a steamy romance and plot a high stakes heist to steal $2 million from Violet’s boyfriend.

Shot in high contrast color with stark shadows and weird camera angles – all references to the classic era of film noir, Bound subverts the genre by turning the classic femme fatale and romance usually at the center of the genre into two strong women in a lesbian romance. The Wachowskis, who had not yet come out as transgender then, used lesbian consultant Susie Bright to lend the film an authenticity that had lacked in films made by men that centered around female characters or lesbian themes.

Beyond that, Bound never indulges in lascivious lesbian tropes despite marketing that may make it seem like one is in for some sort of soft porn. The one sex scene between the two women is extremely tasteful and is not the main focus of the film. The focus of Bound is placed where it should be in any noir – the danger surrounding the plot, the symbolism sprinkled throughout the film, and the gorgeous imagery from cinematographer Bill Pope, who would also go on to work with The Wachowskis on The Matrix.

The chemistry between the two leading actresses is palpable, and actor Joe Pantoliano also puts in a fine performance as the unhinged mafioso who throws all of their well laid plans into jeopardy. Ms. Tilly is the standout here, however, dripping with duplicitous sensuality, and her voice really works for her in this role, somehow adding to her ability to charm, deceive and seduce. It is wonderful seeing her in a role where she’s not cast as an airhead or simple sexpot, and she really puts on one of her best performances in Bound.

Purchase Bound 4K Ultra HD Combo on Amazon.com

  • Jennifer Tilly and Gina Gershon in Bound (1996)
  • Bound (1996)
  • Bound (1996)
  • Joe Pantoliano and Gina Gershon in Bound (1996)
  • Gina Gershon and Jennifer Tilly in Bound (1996)
  • Bound 4K Ultra HD Combo (Criterion)

The Video

Bound was restored from a new 4K digital master of the original 35mm camera negative and a 35mm interpositive for some scenes supervised by original cinematographer Bill Pope. The film is presented in an HEVC 2160p (4K UHD) Dolby Vision encodement for the 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray and an AVC 1080p SDR encodement taken from the new master for the Blu-ray. This film has looked very good on home video and it continues to do so. The 2018 US Blu-ray release from the now defunct Olive Signature label looked great, and this 4K release from Criterion elevates that to a new level, with even better, more organic looking grain, crispy details, and lots of extension in the shadows. The Dolby Vision grading adds just a hint of ‘pop’ to specular highlights and a little more vibrancy to primaries like reds, in particular. The included Blu-ray, also taken from the new master, looks very good, but the grain is a bit noisier and crunchier, for lack of a better word. The colors look just a hint flatter as well, but this is not to call the quality into question. If the Blu-ray were all we had and no side-by-side were available between the two, it would be completely satisfying.

The Audio

The 5.1 mix for Bound was remastered from the original digital master files. The audio is included in a lossless DTS-HD Master Audio track that, like the stereo mix on the Olive Signature Blu-ray discs provides a superb soundscape. Here, the atmospherics are more elevated, the panning wider, like the squeaking of pipes, the sound leaking through walls, and so on.

The Supplements

Criterion includes a new video essay on Bound from film critic Christina Newland and numerous interviews with the cast and crew. There is also an essay with film scholar McKenzie Wark.

Bonus Features:

  • Audio commentary, recorded in 1997, featuring directors Lana Wachowski and Lilly Wachowski, editor Zach Staenberg, and technical consultant SUSIE Bright. They are joined later in the track by actors Joe Pantoliano, Jennifer Tilly, and Gina Gershon.
  • Pipeline to Seduction (1080p; 00:16:45) – This video essay, written and narrated by film critic Christina Newland, was produced by the Criterion Collection in 2024.
  • Gina Gershon and Jennifer Tilly – (1080p; 00:26:38)
  • Joe Pantoliano (1080p; 00:15:05)
  • Christopher Meloni (1080p; 00:09:53)
  • Modern Noir (1080p; 00:29:00) – This program, produced in 2014, features interviews with cinematographer Bill Pope, editor Zach Staenberg, and composer Don Davis.
  • Playing with Expectations (1080p; 00:13:55) – In this program, produced in 2018, film scholars Jennifer Moorman and B. Ruby Rich share their observations about the Wachowski’s play on gender roles and sexuality in Bound.
  • Title Design (1080p; 00:06:50) – In this brief program, produced in 2018, Patti Podesta discusses her title design for Bound.
  • Trailers (1080i; 00:04:51)
  • Essay by film scholar McKenzie Wark

The Final Assessment

A groundbreaking debut feature film by The Wachowskis that helped define the neo-noir movement for the 1990s and beyond, Bound has been beautifully remastered and restored in 4K and Blu-ray from Criterion. Anyone who loves noir and neo-noir should enjoy this entry in the genre.

Bound is out on 4K Ultra HD Combo June 18, 2024 from Criterion Collection

Purchase Bound 4K Ultra HD Combo on Amazon.com

  • Rating Certificate: R (for strong sexuality, violence and language)
  • Studios & Distributors: Dino De Laurentiis Company | Spelling Films | The Criterion Collection
  • Director: Lilly Wachowski | Lana Wachowski
  • Written By: Lilly Wachowski | Lana Wachowski
  • Run Time: 108 Mins.
  • Street Date: 18 June 2024
  • Video Format: HEVC 2160p (4K UHD)
  • HDR Format: Dolby Vision (HDR10 Compatible)
  • HDR10 Metdata:
    • Max. Luminance: 1000 nits
    • Min. Luminance: 0.0001 nits
  • Primary Audio: English DTS-HD MA 5.1
  • Subtitles: English SDH

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Ex-con Corky and her sultry lover Violet plot to steal millions of dollars from the mafia and frame Violet's mob-connected boyfriend in this 1990s neo-noir.Bound (4K UHD Review)