Grimy locations, a cast of unglamorous unknowns and a virtually non-existent budget all work in favor of this downbeat tale of a basically decent ex-con who can't win for losing. After serving close to 10 years for beating a man nearly to death during a stick-up, gun-runner and petty thief Virgil Bliss (Clint Jordan) is ready to start over. He's earned early parole for good behavior and all he wants is to get a job, settle down and lead the closest thing he can to a normal life. But first Virgil must spend a few tightly supervised weeks at a Brooklyn halfway house before he can be fully released. Virgil's eager to follow the rules, but his new roommate, Manny (Anthony Gorman), is a troublemaker who soon has Virgil out on the Brooklyn backstreets picking up prostitutes. Or at least trying to: Having spent a good chunk of his life behind bars, Virgil isn't exactly smooth with the ladies, and at 39, he's still a virgin. Virgil's inexperience helps to explain why, after one failed doorway encounter with Ruby (Kirsten Russell, who's excellent), a seriously unpleasant, down-on-her-luck hooker with a nasty heroin habit, Virgil thinks he's in love. Ruby tries to shake him off, but Virgil won't be discouraged. They spend an afternoon at the Coney Island beach (the date comes to a screeching halt when Virgil goes for a dip and Ruby empties his pockets for drug money; he finds her hours later nodding out on the sidewalk) and Virgil asks Ruby to make a little room for him in her cramped apartment. She only relents when Virgil, who's gotten a job as a school janitor after lying about his past, offers to pay the rent. But domestic bliss isn't easy to come by: Ruby refuses to give up smack; her scary pimp (Marc Romeo) thinks Virgil should be paying for Ruby's valuable time just like everyone else; and Manny turns up like the proverbial bad penny with a sure-fire scheme that could solve all Virgil's problems. Virgil Bliss is one in a long line of movie bad-guys-gone-good, antiheroes who try to stick to the straight and narrow but still get tripped up by the corruption all around them. Virgil's naïveté isn't entirely believable, but his essential goodness is, thanks to a solid performance by Jordan, and that's really what makes this modern urban tragedy unusually affecting.
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- Released: 2000
- Rating: NR
- Review: Grimy locations, a cast of unglamorous unknowns and a virtually non-existent budget all work in favor of this downbeat tale of a basically decent ex-con who can't win for losing. After serving close to 10 years for beating a man nearly to death during a st… (more)