Every year, it seems, critics go nuts over a movie so lame that I think the critics didn’t go nuts — the critics are nuts. Last year’s endlessly acclaimed (and just plain endless) Heat was a shining example. Bound, which has “nasty, clever thriller” stamped all over it, isn’t nearly as snoozeworthy as Heat, but it left me cold and vaguely annoyed. I can almost hear the writer-director brothers, Andy and Larry Wachowski, making their pitch to the studio:

“It’s about two guys who steal money from the mob.”

“Yeah? So? That’s been done.”

“Okay, so we make ’em two lesbians, and they get naked and have a sex scene.”

“Gentlemen, welcome aboard.”

Bound feels exactly that calculated. It’s been praised for its spin on film noir standards, but all it actually does is reproduce them and arrange them back-to-back, with many look-Ma-I’m-a-director shots (massive close-ups, ostentatious angles) that critics have called “knowing nods to the Coen brothers.” Uh-uh. Sorry. These are knowing rip-offs of the Coen brothers. Always glad to set these things straight.

And let us not forget the lesbians getting naked. These particular daughters of Sappho — ex-con plumber Corky (Gina Gershon) and gangster moll Violet (Jennifer Tilly) — are two guys’ idea of hip, scheming lesbos. They’re immediately attracted to each other, and they both happen to be criminal masterminds who figure out how to pinch $2 million from Violet’s brain-cell-challenged gangster boyfriend Caesar (Joe Pantoliano).

If this were done ironically, with a postmodern awareness of how threadbare the premise is (Corky just happens to move next door to Violet and Caesar), Bound might have been as smart and dazzling as it wants to be. As it is, it’s an over-deliberate rewrite of the panting pulp fiction of the ’50s. I’ve read some, and it’s more fun. In fact, if Bound had been set in the ’50s, like one of Showtime’s Rebel Highway goofs a couple of years back, I’d have gone along with it for a while.

But no, the brothers Wachowski (who wrote 1995’s coma-inducing Assassins) are very much ’90s directors, with sex and gore to match (if I never see another Tarantinoid torture scene, I won’t mind a bit). And their actors are no help. Poor Joe Pantoliano — he’s been good in other movies, so I’ll leave him alone. Tilly seems to be going for a ’40s femme fatale effect, but the only thing fatal about her is her grating voice. Gershon sports a ripe smirk and lets her performance ride on it, as she did in Showgirls. After a while, what that smirk really seems to say to us is “I’m getting paid to be here. What’s your excuse?”

Well, our excuse is that we want to be thrilled and entertained and maybe even aroused. But the sex in Bound is boring and impersonal, and the whole thing made me tired of thrillers about guns and money and T&A and dark red blood dripping into white paint (don’t ask). Ooh, how nasty and clever! Nasty, maybe, but as the man said, there’s a fine line between clever and stupid.

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