One might expect a review of Bound to open by noting that the movie shouldn’t be confused with the 1996 Jennifer Tilly/Gina Gershon thriller of the same name, but production company the Asylum would probably be happy if audiences did confuse it with that movie. More likely, they’re hoping audiences will confuse Bound with 50 Shades of Grey, the upcoming adaptation of the mega-popular erotic novel that is clearly the impetus behind Bound’s existence. Yes, this is another mockbuster from the company that brought you Transmorphers, Snakes on a Train and Atlantic Rim, the last of which was helmed by Bound writer-director Jared Cohn.
Cohn was also responsible for Asylum productions Jailbait and Bikini Spring Break, so it might be misguided to expect him to handle sexual content with respect and nuance. Strangely enough, though, while Bound may not be a good movie, it’s not a terrible representation of female sexuality and BDSM, and it deals head-on with the abusive undertones that many have pointed out in the central relationship of 50 Shades. It also refreshingly features a female lead two decades older than the main character of 50 Shades, former Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel co-star Charisma Carpenter, who brings more talent than is usually found in an Asylum production to the role of real estate broker Michelle Milan. Daniel Baldwin, however, playing Michelle’s father/boss, sounds like he’s reading all of his lines from cue cards he’s never seen before, which is more in line with the typical effort from Asylum’s version of A-list stars.
A workaholic single mother with a teenage daughter and an unsatisfying sex life, Michelle meets mysterious younger man Ryan (model Bryce Draper) at a restaurant, and soon he’s making uncomfortable sexual demands of her. Red flags should perhaps go off for Michelle when Ryan accuses her of being a daddy’s girl and then declares, “I’m your father, your master, your husband, your god,” but instead she’s excited by his version of BDSM, which mostly involves being a total jerk and messing up her chances to negotiate a major deal at work.
At first the movie seems to be setting up the skeevy Ryan as some sort of sexual savior for Michelle, but it soon becomes clear that he’s nothing more than an abusive douchebag who uses BDSM as an excuse for his bad behavior. Cohn presents a few enlightening scenes that emphasize the respect and consent of actual BDSM relationships, and even though the climactic confrontation between Michelle and Ryan ends up being pretty tame, it offers up something resembling a satisfying character arc for Michelle.
Carpenter helps bring that arc to life in a performance that deserves better than an Asylum production, but Draper’s acting is vapid and flaccid, and the sex scenes, despite featuring copious topless footage of Carpenter, aren’t particularly sensual. The production values are predictably low, with scenes taking place in suspiciously sparse, under-populated locations, and there’s an obvious rushed quality to the entire enterprise (at one point a character’s name changes from Peter to Paul within the same scene, possibly because the filmmakers couldn’t afford a second take).
And while the story of Michelle’s sexual awakening is surprisingly not awful, at least half the plot is taken up with tedious, unconvincing negotiations in Michelle’s effort to save her father’s company via some sort of nonsensical corporate merger. That kind of cheap time-killing is an Asylum trademark, and just because Bound stumbles into something resembling actual insight from time to time doesn’t mean that it isn’t, at heart, just another product of the Asylum assembly line.