For a certain segment of the audience, I believe the operative critical phrase with which to evaluate the cinematic attributes of Bound is ''Girl-Girl Action!'' For others, I suggest a plausible critical framework might be ''Noir Mafia Thriller-Comedy (With Girl-Girl Action)!'' Either way, Larry and Andy Wachowski, co-screenwriters and first-time codirectors, have covered their bases, genrewise: This clever, eye-catching, highly stylized, faux-chic caper features (a) Coen brothers-style gore; (b) Scorsese-style Mob double-crossings; (c) Candida Royale-style erotica; (d) Joe Eszterhas-style lesbians. Schwing!
Word is that photos of Gina Gershon are now doing for certain women what downloaded computer pix of Teri Hatcher have done for certain young men: making loins (or whatever) tremble. This is understandable. As Corky, a supple, cool, provocatively grime-covered ex-con and apartment-building cleaning gal with a sexy overbite, Gershon breaks the hell out of her Showgirlspurgatory and establishes herself as a fierce hot patootie of Linda Fiorentino proportions. It's just Corky's luck to meet up with Violet (Jennifer Tilly as a velvety sex kitten rather than a Bullets Over Broadway baby doll), the quick-witted moll of a high-strung Mob money launderer called Caesar (Joe Pantoliano from The Fugitive). Violet good enough to eat in short, formfitting nightclub dresses falls for Corky and seduces her (and here, as Jerry Seinfeld would say, the nipple first makes its appearance); Corky falls for Violet. And the two women hatch a plan that would pry 2 million Mafia bucks from under Caesar's twitchy nose provided they can trust each other.
The true pleasures of Bound lie in the Wachowskis' inventive updated take on film noir traditions, sensuously realized by cinematographer Bill Pope (Clueless). The slow drip of blood, the sizzly tension of a standoff with a Mob king, a scene of Caesar literally laundering C-notes, and the snappy tough-girl dialogue all contribute to a hum of sophisticated enjoyment.
The false pleasures, however, lie in thinking that the movie's sexual kicks signify anything deeper or more revolutionary than a tag-along ride on the trendy wave of lesbians as entertainment. The titillation, for humans of all genders, that comes from watching two beautiful actresses breathing hard for each other is not to be undervalued. But the ''Corky 'n' Violet 4-ever'' show is about as believable a girl-girl emotional commitment as the meaningful relationship between Sharon Stone and Leilani Sarelle in Basic Instinct. What binds these two lookers together in the plot of Bound is the loosest tie of all.