It’s all right to populate movies with familiar types as long as they seem like flesh-and-blood people instead of commedia dell’arte masks. Fortunately, Isaac Hirotsu Woofter’s latest Bound features actors who are strong enough to take what could have been stock characters and transform them into people who might live outside of the screen.
Bound may start in an environment like a trailer park, but Woofter adds a few intriguing details that keep his tale fresh. For one thing, this gloomy location is outside New York City instead of the American South, but some of the struggles Bella (Alexandra Faye Sadeghian) faces are sadly universal.
Her stepfather Gordy (Bryant Carroll) is abusive and makes a sizable portion of his income from drug deals. Bella’s mother, Yeva (Pooya Moseni), seems drawn to him like a moth to a flame, even though he seems to be capable of only getting himself or those around him hurt.
When Bella chases him out with a pistol, the barely conscious Yeva thinks nothing of inviting Gordy back in. Because Gordy brings in fellow narcos who seem just as violent and unpredictable as he is, Bella flees with her pet squirrel, Bandit, and heads for the Big Apple.
While it’s a given that New York can be dangerous, it’s actually a better environment for Bella than the isolated home she shared with her mother. Bella may have qualified for an art scholarship, but she’s never had the chance to develop some of the survival skills that other young women have picked up at this point in her life.
“…Bella flees with her pet squirrel, Bandit, and heads for the Big Apple.”
Fortunately, a coffee shop owner named Owais (Ramin Karimloo), a bartender (Jessica Pimentel), and a clothing shopkeeper (freshman thespian Jaye Alexander) do more than take pity on her. Because Marta has to keep an eye out for immigration officials when she isn’t operating the bar, she knows Bella’s struggles even if they’ve barely met. The same goes for Standrick, who could have turned her over to the police for shoplifting if he didn’t have the baggage of his own.
Together, the three teach her the ropes of the city and help her grow into the person she might have been if Gordy hadn’t hidden the fact that she earned a scholarship.
By using a gritty, handheld style, Woofter keeps the tale from becoming the sort of thing that Hallmark has commoditized. Bella’s awakening feels rewarding because she’s had a lot to overcome and because Sadeghian projects enough strength to make Bella seem sturdy enough to take any slings and arrows that come her way.
If her new home seems strangely close to the very different world she left behind, they’re linked in ways that aren’t immediately apparent. Happy endings are possible in Woofter’s New York, but they must be earned and aren’t guaranteed.
Woofter wrote a script for Steven Seagal, and one wonders if he might have been able to make the former action star worth watching. Working with experienced but less familiar performers, he coaxes solid work from them and gets some surprises that wouldn’t happen if they were better known.
New York has been filmed a lot over the last century and a half, but if Bound is any indication, the city that never sleeps has more promising tales to come.
"…the city that never sleeps has more promising tales to come."