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A Retro Taste of 90's Cable After Dark Erotic Movies
With all the hype over Fifty Shades of Gray, it's only natural that there would be several copycat type films tossed out to make a buck off of that market base. However, fans of 1990's late night erotic television can tell you that Fifty Shades is nothing new or in my opinion, all that great. Erotic-psychological fare has long been a staple of HBO and Showtime's After Dark rotation, with actresses such as Shannon Whirry, Julie Strain and Shannon Tweed kicking teenage males hormones into overdrive.
Bound, starring Charisma Carpenter (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel) is more in that HBO-Showtime mode than the Fifty Shades of Gray mode. In fact, it's not that bad a film, thanks in large part to the writers deciding to actually place a plot into the movie instead of depending on the sexual nature of the movie to draw viewers. But don't get me wrong, there is a definite erotic flavor to this film and the delectable and capable Charisma Carpenter looks most appealing dressed and undressed as the story's hero.
Carpenter, known for playing the bossy, assertive prom queen Cordelia Chase in the Buffy-Angel television series displays impressive range as Michelle Mulan, a mundane business woman simply dredging through her comfortable, orderly life which consists of her boyfriend, George (Mark McClain Wilson) who is a bore (in and out of the bedroom) and Dara(Morgan Obenreder), her whip of a teenage daughter who she has no control over. Michelle works at her father's (William Baldwin) real estate brokerage firm, which is on the verge of bankruptcy. Michelle however, believes that the firm can be saved via a merger. Unfortunately, the all-male board view mousy Michelle as nothing more than "daddy's little girl" and her advice and plans for a merger fall on deaf ears. She is even insulted by one of the board members in front of her father, but lacks the fortitude to defend herself and her ideas.
While having dinner at a restaurant with Dara, Michelle finds herself attracted to a handsome, yet shadowy man at the bar. After leaving the restaurant, she receives a call that she forgot to sign the credit card receipt. She returns to the restaurant where she encounters the man at the bar whose name she finds out is Ryan. Unsure of herself, yet helplessly intrigued, Michelle begins to fall under Ryan's Svengali-like charms. Eventually, he takes her completely out of her orderly world and has her smoking joints, drinking during the day and having a sexual rendezvous' in her father's office at the firm. But that's just the beginning. Ryan takes her to a secret S&M club. Michelle becomes intoxicated by her surroundings, fearful, but very much aroused. Soon she finds herself as Ryan's sex slave, submitting to his darkest desires.
Initially, Michelle is excited and intrigued about this new stage developing in her life. However, she soon finds out the truth about Ryan, and the high price that comes with his erotic influence, one that put both her family and career in danger.
The film works because it allows Michelle's character's arch to play out fully. Carpenter is convincing as the woman with everything, but nothing. She is smart, but vulnerable, beautiful but filled with self-doubt. When she begins to lose many of her sexual inhibitions, it is wonderfully shown through Michelle's slow, but effective grasp on a woman with an identity crisis who gradually learns who she is and what she really wants. Carpenter's transformation at the end is believable as the writers give us a reason (her daughter, her career) why she makes the 180-degree turn and is able to stand up against Ryan and his manipulative ways.
Director and writer Jared Cohn does a good job of allowing Carpenter's subtle reactions to her new world to play out. He doesn't try and force-feed us her transformation, instead we see Carpenter debating her choices and then agonizing over her mistakes in a believable manner that leads to a satisfactory end.
The film is visually stimulating, and the S&M scenes come off as both erotic as well as tasteful. Cinematographer Laura Beth Love gives the viewer a rich variety of colors and angles which move the story along, never lingering long enough to create an uncomfortable feeling over the erotic scenes. Carpenter is also filmed beautifully as we see her more dowdy early in the film, and as she gains back control of her life, her appearance softens and becomes more powerful.
If the first erotic thriller you have ever watched was Fifty Shades of Gray, this film might go over your head. However, for fans of the old HBO-Showtime, After Dark films, this is a well-directed, well acted and beautifully filmed movie that is worth a couple of hours.
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