The Tie That Binds

Studio: Kino Lorber Studio Classics

Sep 03, 2018 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share

Hollywood Pictures was a production subsidiary of The Walt Disney Company from 1989 till 2007, producing works for adult audiences that differed greatly from Disney’s other filmic faire. Notable for its production of genre films such as The Sixth Sense, Tombstone, and Dead Presidents, the company would contribute to some of the more riskier properties tried out on audiences throughout the 1990s. Though there are a few significant and successful projects produced through the company, it is more defined by its massive trail of critical and commercial flops (the most notorious being Super Mario Bros), eventually forcing its dissolvement. However, during an early peak in its inceptive years the studio would release The Tie That Binds.

The Tie That Binds was directed by Wesley Strick, who had risen to fame as a script doctor and screenwriter for several notable Hollywood giants (such as Martin Scorsese, Tim Burton and Mike Nichols), though he interestingly wasn’t the one who penned this directorial debut. That task was passed to Mickey Birnbaum (credited as Michael Auerbach), a playwright developing projects for Paramount, Universal, and Warner Brothers; and remains his only major on-screen credit to the present day.

The film begins with John (Keith Carradine) and Leann Netherwood (Daryl Hannah), a pair of unhinged fugitives on the run for numerous grisly murders. Though they are wounded and chased off by Officer David Carrey (Ned Vaughn) during one of their home invasions, they are forced to abandon their 6-year-old daughter Janie (Julia Devin). Janie is remanded to foster care, where Russell (Vincent Spano) and Dana Clifton (Moira Kelly) adopt her, knowing full well that they are welcoming a thoroughly traumatized child into their home. As Janie continues to exhibit increasingly bizarre and disturbing behavior (stealing food, cutting herself, etc.), John and Leann are torturing and threatening their way closer to their little girl, regardless of who they have to hurt.

Now, if The Tie That Binds was to be viewed in a vacuum, it is still a pretty stock-standard thriller swimming in lukewarm atmospheric tension. When viewing it as part of the 1990s film catalogue however, it only impresses as a less schizophrenic reimagining of Natural Born Killers (which had come out the previous year), meeting Hollywood Pictures’ The Hand That Rocks the Cradle; the only box office success for the company at the time. The producers of The Tie That Binds surely wanted to capitalize on their earlier release, so the promotional material (and subsequent home release box art) constantly feature this cinematic connection. However, this could be seen as quite a poor choice, as this film heavily pales in comparison to Curtis Hanson’s psychotic nanny thriller, and offers up a false hope that this’ll be even close to that experience.

While Bobby Bukowski’s smooth and unique cinematography adds quite a bit to the visual flair of the film, it does little to actually add enough tangible atmosphere to make any moment unsettling or tense. The musical score by Graeme Revell manages to be a serenely sinister amalgamation of different styles and tones, but they don’t scream out “crazed couple on a killing spree” as much they do a mildly tense chamber drama about a rabid poodle. If anything, the real bring-down of the whole affair is the editor Michael N. Knue. Though he is credited with a few significant cuts in more recent years (he is a regular editor for several of Netflix’s Marvel series), his career has been mostly hallmarked by chopshopped cheapness in overflowing cheese-fests like Rocky V, A Nightmare on Elm Street 4, and Highlander: Endgame; and this case is absolutely no different.

The overall narrative logic is minute at best, with several scenes throwing out suspension of disbelief entirely (such as when Carradine squashes a fly on the window of a diner, with it squelching so much blood that its intended dread turns immediately into camp). However, even with all of these major detractors, the movie is still fun to watch, (if to lampoon if nothing else), and the distributors at Kino Lorber seem to also think so, granting the film a special edition Blu-ray release. The single-disc offering is equipped with the theatrical film, an old featurette that was made and used as a promo for the original theatrical release, cast and crew soundbites (which are already edited into the featurette), and a collection of trailers from other Hollywood Pictures’ features. As far as special editions go, this one is particularly underwhelming.

All of the supplemental material can be found easily elsewhere and the original film is hardly worth another Blu-ray re-release (the first was in 2011 by Mill Creek Entertainment, and bears the same exact box art). While there are moments of genuine creativity interlaced amongst the drabbery, The Tie That Binds feels little more than a weak cash-in that would have faded into bland obscurity if distributors weren’t constantly trying to resurrect it to squeeze a few more dimes from its lifeless corpse.



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September 3rd 2018

This Survey can be completed within a few minutes.  Immediately, after completing the survey, you will be rewarded for taking the time to complete the survey.

Harry Louis
September 4th 2018

Good review.
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John Fanney
September 4th 2018

Nice review of The Tie That Binds.
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September 4th 2018

This is the reason Panda Express is conducting Feedback Survey in order to know the satisfaction level of their customers.

Jim Hemphill
September 4th 2018

This review is inaccurate and lazy. Many of the special features, including the commentary track by Wesley Strick and myself, are new to this release and not “easily found elsewhere” as the reviewer claims.