By Merle Bertrand | July 23, 2001

It takes but a few seconds into director Matt Bird’s “Poor Fool” to realize that the mini-DV format just doesn’t work for the film noire genre. Letterboxed and black & white though it might be, video, even digital video with all its crispness and clarity, is a poor choice for the requisite murkiness and smoky, gritty moodiness that one expects to find in a film noire potboiler. Of course, it doesn’t help that “Poor Fool” is full of shoddy, shaky camera work and more hackneyed, poorly acted dialogue than all the daytime soaps combined.
Blondie Niles (Robert Elliott) is a washed up prizefighter. It’s not that he’s been too badly beaten up in the ring, but rather that he’s taken one too many falls for the wrong shady promoters. Now he’s tainted goods; blackballed from the fighting game and pure poison to any reputable fight promoter…if there is such a creature.
Enter Saltie Banks (John DeRosier), a promoter as crooked as a pug’s nose, who wants Blondie to serve as a “middle,” i.e. a knockout victim for Banks’ money boxer Knockout Harris (Ty Richardson). Blondie finally agrees after receiving hearty encouragement from his gold-digging girlfriend Louise (Nadine Gross), the proverbial hooker with the heart of gold. When Saltie has Louise murdered, for reasons known only to Bird, the suddenly rudderless Blondie finds himself drifting through a series of increasingly weird misadventures. Most prevalent of these is an extended stint in the perverted arms of Gertrude (Jodi Breisler) and her h***y, sadistic and grotesque mother Mrs. Boxx (Patty Donaghue).
If “Poor Fool” feels like two separate movies from the above plot description, you should see the movie itself. On second thought, don’t bother as this jumbled, distasteful and distorted mess will only leave a bad taste in your mouth. The story lurches and staggers along from contrived plot point to plot point like a dazed prizefighter on the short end of a Tyson bout. The boxing scenes, presum!
ably meant as the film’s centerpieces, sure aren’t going to challenge those in “Raging Bull”…or even “Rocky 12,” for that matter. Besides, they almost seem superfluous in the context of the rest of the film’s queasy goings on. Hell, boxing is so unimportant to his character, that Blondie might just as well have been a brain surgeon.
Presumably based on a novel by someone named Erskine Caldwell, one can only hope that this really is one of those stereotypical instances where the book is better than the movie. That’s not hard to imagine at all.

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