Artisan // 1992 // 90 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Eric Profancik (Retired) // June 27th, 2003
A woman like Kit comes around once in a lifetime. That's enough.
One of my favorite Hollywood tricks is the repackage. In this instance, I am not referring to the dreaded double-dip. This time, I'm talking about when Hollywood remembers that a current big name actor starred in one of their films before he or she was big. They scour their vaults, find the title, change the cover by plastering said big name star's face and name on the package, and then re-release the video to the masses in hopes of making a few easy bucks. It's yet another one of the American ways, and it's not as bad as some of the others. In fact, I find it quite amusing. In the case of this film you've probably never heard of, the original artwork for Trouble Bound featured the two leads only, Michael Madsen (Reservoir Dogs, Die Another Day, Species) and Patricia Arquette (True Romance, Little Nicky, Stigmata). Now here comes the scary yet funny part. What "big name" actor also starred in this film? Who is now worthy of making an appearance on the cover of this new DVD? That would be the one, the only, Billy Bob Thornton (Sling Blade, Armageddon, Monster's Ball)! And, in the truest of Hollywood fashion, Billy Bob is only in the movie for about five minutes.
I wonder if it has helped sales any?
Harry Talbot (Madsen) has just recently finished serving time in the big house. He's gone back to Nevada to hook up with some old friends -- not to get back into his old life, but to start anew. Soon enough, the gang is all together and they're playing a game of high stakes poker. Harry has a great hand and ends up winning big: $5,000 and his buddy's classic convertible Lincoln Continental. So far, Harry's new life seems to be going well for him.
But what Harry doesn't know is that he's been conned. His friends let him win the game because their "boss" told them to dump the car. Why? Because tossed in the trunk is the dead body of Gordo, a small time crook who was trying to hide something from the boss.
Driving his new Continental deeper into Nevada, Harry stops for a late night refresher at a little bar. There he first sees Kit (Arquette), making quite the scene in an attempt to get away from her "friends." It turns out that Kit has just come from trying to kill a Mafia boss by the name of Santino. Santino killed Kit's father many years ago, and she has been harboring a murderous intent all that time. Complicating matters is the fact that Kit is the granddaughter of a rival Mafia Dona, who is currently working with Santino. Hence, Kit's revenge may lead to a Mafia war. Now stuck with her chaperones, including her biological idiot brother, Kit causes a scene in the bar and makes her break. Unfortunately or fortunately for her, she tries to steal Harry's car. But Harry is wise to her games and stops Kit from stealing his car. Not knowing why, he agrees to take her away from the bar.
In the meantime, the boss has discovered that Gordo may be of use to him after all. He believes that Gordo is hiding a key on his dead body -- a key that will unlock a safe filled with lots of money.
As Kit and Harry begin their journey, they find they have chemistry and develop an instant liking for each other. However, Kit is very good at manipulating people, and she uses her charms to con Harry to get her back to Santino, so she can try one last hit.
Harry, who 36 hours ago was just hoping to get a fresh start, has found himself caught in the midst of a very complicated situation. He's discovered Gordo, he realizes his "friends" are after him/Gordo, he has Kit manipulating him, Kit's family is chasing him to get her back, Santino is after Harry for being involved in the latest attempt on his life, and now we're on the verge of a Mafia war.
The plot, when I typed it up, certainly felt complicated. If that is the vibe you took from it, then that would be wrong. Trouble Bound is a very simple film with a very simple premise. It's all been tried before, and it's a plot that has been rehashed more times than any of us can count. It's not original, it's not fresh, and it's not innovative. Yet, the film is far from a complete loss for one simple reason: chemistry. As I watched the movie, I found that I really enjoyed the interplay between Kit and Harry. The two had a very natural rapport, and their pairing is logical in that they're similar ages and might actually be attracted to each other -- unlike some of the preposterous couplings that Hollywood tries to give us. At first, though, Kit is not a likeable person. For starters, she's a killer, though she gets the wrong person, and then she's extremely manipulative of Harry. She uses her ample charms to push Harry's buttons and gets him to do exactly what she wants. But somehow, it turns charming. The two click, and they work very well together. Further, as old and tired as the plot may be, it moves along briskly in its 90 minute running time. The movie doesn't bog down, and it is entertaining for what it is.
There's very little of note in the film. Overall, the acting, direction, and cinematography are satisfactory. Going with the premise, nothing in the batch stands out. I don't believe you'll find anything much to fuss about...except, perhaps, for the requisite idiot sheriff character. I guess I should mention that the dialogue does wander into bad territory at times. And, even though strippers would normally elevate my appreciation of a film, they don't in this instance. They found the ugliest women to portray strippers ever. Where's Demi when you need her?
As for the transfers, they continue the trend of adequacy. Unfortunately, Artisan decided to employ a full screen presentation for the film, immediately motivating me to chop its video score in half. Regardless, the video is fairly dirty, has a soft haze, and also sports an occasional bleed and touch of artifacting. Colors are accurate and fairly rich, but the blacks tend to be a little soft, especially in the frequent night scenes. For the audio, your only option is a 2.0 Dolby Digital track that, again, is just fine. For the most part, all is well, but every now and then the dialogue gets that hollow quality to it and the music cues break at times on the upper registers. Sadly, there are no subtitles. And, this is a bare bones disc.
The Judge has been far too kind in his comments about the tired feel to the film. It's not tired; it's exhausted. Every scene, every line of dialogue, every shot feels "borrowed" from another film. True, most films don't have so many plot complications, but that doesn't make this clunker any better. Her manipulations become charming? No! They become highly annoying. This woman flashes around some cleavage and Harry follows like a dog in heat, which maybe he is since he spent so much time in jail. And worst of all are all the coincidences and contrivances dispersed throughout. Look how everyone just happens to bump into each other in the middle of Nevada; look how so and so appears just in the nick of time, and look at how he knows to do that to cause this to have that happen! Credibility can only be stretched so far. If you want to watch Michael Madsen in a film from 1992, choose the one where his character's name is Mr. Blonde.
Unless you're a huge fan and a completist of either Madsen's or Arquette's work, you're probably best off saving your money on this one. While not a complete loss, it's simply not a great film. I liked the chemistry of the two, but that isn't enough for me to recommend this for purchase (don't forget it's full screen!) or even for rental -- unless perhaps you have a free pass and you're looking for something a little different. A mildly cute, simple film, Trouble Bound would be best viewed as a late night offering on one of the many cable stations available.
Trouble Bound is found not guilty and is hereby released on its own recognizance. The court does request that all parties stay out of Nevada.
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Scales of Justice
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (English)
Running Time: 90 Minutes
Release Year: 1992
MPAA Rating: Rated R