The Wachowskis’ debut feature is a nail-biting, bum-clenching thriller, made cheaply using three sets and three main characters. It’s a lesbian noir, and I’m still unsure how effectively those two elements are integrated.

Jennifer Tilly plays a mobster’s kept gal, who is smitten by Gina Gershon and conspires with her to steal the boyfriend’s suitcase full of laundered cash. Tilly plays her part like she’s straight out of Sin City (the Wachowski’s took inspiration from the Frank Miller comics). She is playing a role, which the filmmakers associate with her being in the closet.

Which may be as far as that goes, except for the opening image of Gina Gershon literally bound up in a closet. Gershon’s character is confidently out. The choice facing her is whether to trust that Tilly's feelings for her are on the level. Tilly could just be seducing her and using her – and the film’s opening does suggest Gershon has been betrayed. It also underlines how Gershon has been drawn into Tilly’s world. Tilly leads a life of bad faith. She’s bound not with ropes and gags, but by conventions and fear of her violent male keeper.

Gershon’s performance is more toned down than Tilly’s, but there is still an air of James Dean swagger about her that’s larger than life. Likewise Joe Pantoliano’s mafia lieutenant, and the rest of the mafiosi, feel like they have stepped out of other films. The Wachowskis lean very heavily on noir archetypes, to the point where the unreality of Tilly’s persona becomes less remarkable. I wonder whether the theme of the film would have more force if Gershon wasn’t a slick ex-con, but a hapless every-woman drawn into Tilly’s spell.

The Wachowskis insisted on the lesbian story-line, despite pressure from one studio to change Gershon’s character to a man. There’s a rather elaborate sex scene, which the two actresses were nervous about, that might suggest prurience on their part. Then again, the Wachowskis also brought in a consultant to advise on making the relationship (and the sex) reflect actual lesbian experience. To me the flirtation felt quite sweet and silly, rather than leery. There is a marvellously mischievous seduction scene in which Tilly asks Gershon to retrieve an earring that has fallen in the sink, which involves looking at her plumbing and getting her hands wet. Gershon acts like she’s in on the joke, and it goes to show that innuendo is sometimes more enjoyable than voyeurism, and certainly more inclusive.

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