Apr 11, 2013


You know how everyone has that one friend who, no matter what kind of story you're telling, somehow has a story even more amusing or ironic? Well, god forbid you ever begin a story with "I had the WORST day recently...!" around K-11's Raymond Saxx, because he would respond, "Well, one morning I woke up from a really fucked-up drug and booze binge, found myself accused of murder, and discovered I was locked up in a special transgender wing of a prison ruled by a deviant security guard and a tranny named The Queen."

Yeah, he'll always win with that one.

Goran Visnjic ("E.R.") is the unfortunate and aforementioned Raymond Saxx being dragged through the dingy halls of an ominous looking prison. He has no idea what he's done to find himself in such a place, but there he is all the same. After being held in isolation along with a fellow inmate named Butterfly (Portia Doubleday, the upcoming Carrie remake), he is eventually added to the gay and transgender wing. You see, the malicious and perverted Sgt. Johnson (D.B. Sweeney, Fire in the Sky) finds Raymond rather attractive, and with him locked up in his domain, he can wait until just the right time to...you know...strike.

While locked up in K-11, we meet its inhabitants: Mousey aka The Queen (Kate del Castilo), the head honcho who makes the rules; her bitch Ben (Jason Mewes, Clerks), who runs a mini drug operation; and Detroit (Tommy 'Tiny' Lister, The Dark Knight), an irreformable child molester, among many many other flamboyant characters. The prisoners of K-11 are colorful, to say the least, and though there is some drama from time to time, mostly these cellmates seem to get a long. But the arrival of Raymond has shaken the wing's establishment, both in front of and behind the locked cell doors.

's own marketing describes it as The Shawshank Redemption meets John Waters. That's a fairly accurate representation, especially when taking the former into consideration, as we have seen this kind of story before: Before Shawshank there was One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, and before that, Cool Hand Luke. A new inmate shows up, unites other inmates thanks to his intelligence, non-conformity, and human spirit, and leaves everyone changed just from his existence. K-11 attempts the same thing; the problem is it's nowhere near the magnitude of those other films.

K-11 is, except for Visnjic's Raymond, extraordinarily well-acted. del Castillo as Mousey is scarily good. Apparently quite the heralded actress in her native Mexico, a quick glance at her filmography confirms I am not familiar with any of her past work. Because of this, having nothing previous to go on, I found her especially convincing. She seemed dangerous and intimidating, but also conflictingly beautiful. All except for the bulge beneath her tiny underwear. Alternately, Portia Doubleday's Butterfly seems simple-minded but good-hearted. Her and Raymond become fast friends, and he soon develops a paternal protection of her. But, like previously mentioned, Visnjic seems rather flat and unconvincing. When he's playing a muddled mess he does just fine, but otherwise it feels like anyone could have played the role. His character is also maddeningly inconsistent. He seems to alternate between being a drug-added sweating mess, desperate to get out of K-11 by any means necessary, to a smiling, just-fine inhabitant, taking delight in Butterfly's bubbly personality, or the prisoners' ...er...fashion show.

The most frustrating aspect to K-11 is that it's impulsively watchable. The interactions between all the characters are very good, and D.B. Sweeney is especially effective as the very slimy Sgt. Johnson. The interplay works; the everyday-life of such a place seems genuine and realistic, though at the same time surreal and foreign. The things that occur are oftentimes so crazy you almost want to believe they are real, because in all honesty, what the fuck do you or I know about the transgender prison populace? But the reason I chose the word "frustrating" is because when the movie's conclusion happens, and the film ends, your immediate question will be "so what?" If co-writer/director Jules Stewart wanted nothing more than to shed some light on such places in a docudrama fashion, then mission accomplished. But if there was supposed to be more to it - if Raymond Saxx was supposed to learn where his life went astray and become a better person for it - if his character was supposed to "grow" - it certainly wasn't earned. There was no epiphany. Whole scenes of inmate camaraderie or catharsis seem to be missing. And the film doesn't end so much as it stops happening, and it sadly makes the journey up to it a little irrelevant. 

The DVD comes with commentary by director Stewart and producer Tom Wright. It's an okay listen, but I'm surprised that Stewart didn't have more to say about her odd choice for a directorial debut. She points out a little trivia from time to time, like explaining that the color of jumpsuit K-11 inhabitants wear are purposely different from those of the general population, but we never get anything meaty or useful. The track starts off with energy, but soon devolves into "and this is what's happening now"-type observation which is audio commentary suicide.

K-11 was an interesting watch, and one I don't regret. I feel as if a curtain has been lifted on a world on which I never gave much thought - whether it exists or not - but it's a shame that this world wasn't utilized to its maximum potential. At the end of the day, K-11 feels like nothing more than a really compelling missed opportunity.

K-11 streets on DVD and Bluray on April 23. Pre-order the DVD here.

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