Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Reverend's Reviews: Cellblock Tango


I doubt anything I write about K-11 can sum it up as accurately and succinctly as The Hollywood Reporter’s critic, who described the film as being “like a deranged John Waters remake of The Shawshank Redemption.”


The film’s title refers to a real-life section of the Los Angeles County Jail in which gay, bisexual and transgender inmates are held (no “real” girls are allowed).  Goran Visnjic gives an impressive performance as Raymond Saxx, a successful music producer who wakes from a drug-induced stupor to find himself K-11’s newest arrival.  He is doubly-surprised once he learns the sexual orientation of his colorful neighbors, since Raymond is heterosexual.  A young Trans woman who takes pity on him best sums up K-11 as “a sanctuary for broken toys.”  Raymond is most definitely in need of repair since, in addition to his obvious addiction issues, he has also been accused of murdering an associate.


Most aggressive among his cellmates is the transsexual Mousey (a fabulously fierce turn by Mexican superstar Kate Del Castillo).  Ruling the ward with stiletto heels and an iron fist, Mousey quickly asserts her authority over Raymond.  In time, though, the two bond over a plan to simultaneously restore Raymond’s innocence and Mousey’s drug trafficking business.  The latter has been disrupted by K-11’s chief guard, Lt. Johnson (entertainingly played with a Hitler-esque combover by D.B. Sweeney), who also has something sinister to do with Raymond’s incarceration.

Jules Stewart makes a supremely confident directorial debut with K-11, especially given the dark, frequently racy material.  Although the screenplay comes perilously close at times to sensationalizing or stereotyping the characters, Stewart wisely resists.  The uniformly excellent cast of supporting players also helps in this regard.  Finally, the film is nicely-shot by Adam Silver and well-edited by Duwayne Dunham.

I certainly wouldn’t call K-11 as depicted here a nice place to visit, but this movie’s intriguing plot and set of characters is worthy of viewers’ time.

Review by Rev. Chris Carpenter, resident film critic of Movie Dearest, Rage Monthly Magazine and Echo Magazine.

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