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The Independent Critic

Clint Jordan, Kirsten Russell
Joe Maggio
Rated R
93 Mins.
First Run
 "Virgil Bliss" Review 

If I had a list for the Top 10 low-budget, independent releases of all-time I guarantee you that "Virgil Bliss" would be on the list.

Writer/director Joe Maggio does what few directors with enormous directors accomplish. He creates a captivating film by using a wonderful story, excellent dialogue and well-developed characters.

"Virgil Bliss" centers on a recently paroled career thief who is struggling to do the right things, settle down, get a real job and fall in love. Of course, in the life of an ex-con these things are never as easy as they sound and this film deals realistically and vividly with the obstacles and pitfalls of a lifetime of bad choices.

As played by Clint Jordan, ex-con Bliss is a mix of good old Southern boy, macho convict and little boy with barely a social skill. At times, the performance is a tad too clean for me but Jordan does wonders here with the role and turns what could have been a very one-note performance into a multi-dimensional tour-de-force.

As the hooker he becomes convinced he loves, Kirsten Russell steals every scene she is in with a powerful performance of street tough anger with innocent vulnerability.

What is brilliant about both performances is that, clearly, neither of these characters are truly "good" people. They've done horrible things, made horrible choices and continue to test each other, challenge each other and stumble along the way to love and trust. Yet, along the way you can't help but fall for these characters. You want them to win out, fall in love, make it care about them even when they don't really care about themselves.

The supporting performances are, across the board, excellent and the production design accomplishes wonders on an obviously small budget. The lighting excels, the camera work is simple yet effective.

This film serves as absolute proof that miraculous, powerful films can be produced on even the smallest of budgets. In a day when we are spending over $150 million to witness hollow looking kids in Christmas films one can't help but be practically orgasmic at the site of such wisdom, wonder and beauty in a film such as "Virgil Bliss." Do I recommend this film? Absolutely.

© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic