The Wachowski Brothers desperately want to be the Coen Brothers - those quirky, highly acclaimed filmmakers who brought us "Fargo," "Raising Arizona" and "The Hudsucker Proxy," among others.
And "desperate" is the operative word as the Wachowskis make their filmmaking bow with "Bound," a slick, brassy, flamboyant example of how emphasizing style over substance can overwhelm the best intentions . . . assuming there are any best intentions.
"Bound" is tied up in the crime genre, specifically the caper sub-genre, in which a seemingly meek person inside a criminal family pulls a scam on a crime boss and gets away with big money, and sometimes murder.
The twist here is that it's a lesbian couple pulling the scam, an exploitation hook that is played to the hilt by Jennifer Tilly, as a not-so-dumb bimbo who seduces an ex-con (Gina Gershon) to help her pull a fast one on her high-rolling, crooked boyfriend (Joe Pan-to-li-ano).
The story begins with buff, tattooed Corky (Gershon), fresh out of prison after a five-year stretch, plunging into fixing up an apartment. Naturally, it just happens to be next door to midlevel, money-laundering gangster Caesar (Pantoliano, at his over-the-top worst) and his sexy girlfriend Violet (Tilly).
Soon, Violet seduces Corky and contrives a plan to steal $2 million from Caesar, while framing him to take the fall. They do so - but Caesar unexpectedly panics. A cat-and-mouse game ensues, as Caesar tries to figure out who double-crossed him before his bosses find out the money is missing and start removing his fingers.
The approach here is definitely Joel & Ethan Coen, while the brutality is pure Martin Scorsese. But "Bound" has none of the wit or cleverness or compelling characters or street smarts of those filmmakers' better movies. Instead, the Wachowskis substitute loopy camera angles, crane shots, overhead shots, shadowy shots and a dark, humorless sensibility, along with ugly, slimeball characters who have no redeeming qualities whatsoever.
The result is an occasionally eye-catching but superficial and extremely unpleasant film, and one wonders if it wouldn't have been better if Larry and Andy Wachowski had opted to apply their heavy-handed, razzle-dazzle directing approach to a script written by someone else.
"Bound" is rated R for considerable violence, torture, gore, sex, nudity, profanity and vulgarity.