K-11 Movie Review
Directed by Jules Stewart
Written by Jared Kurt and Jules Stewart
2012, 88 minutes, Not Rated
Released on April 23rd, 2013
Gore Visnjic as Raymond Saxx
Kate Del Castillo as "Mousey"
Portia Doubleday as "Butterfly"
Jason Mewes as Ben
D. B. Sweeney as Sergeant Johnson
Despite being heterosexual, music mogul Raymond Saxx (Gore Visnjic) is thrown into a segregated dorm at the Los Angeles County prison known as K-11, a protected cell block for bisexual, gay, transgendered, and transsexual inmates awaiting trial. He was too high on smack at the time of his booking to protest when corrupt Sergeant Johnson (D.B. Sweeney) took a liking to him. He was also too high to realize he murdered his rock star client and might be stuck in prison for a very, very long time. His interactions with the curious and dangerous characters in the lockup teach him he needs to work the system to survive until he can scheme his way free.
From there this thin story is overwhelmed by forced performances, exploitive liberties, and scenes of violence that serve no purpose to change Saxx or the audience.
The problem starts as soon as Raymond is processed and he meets his temporary cellmate while he sobers up. Portia Doubleday is beautifully tragic as Bobby, aka "Butterfly", but the character breakdowns I've found describe Butterfly as autistic. I've never met a high-functioning autistic person so flirtatiously engaged with a specific person like she is with Saxx. Yes, the two men with whom I worked were very focused when they were speaking to me, but it didn't matter who they were speaking to so long as they felt comfortable; the subject matter is what fascinated them. Frankly, a real-life Butterfly would never make it to prison: the autism diagnosis and implied self-defense nature of her crime would guide her straight to the state hospital. Whether Doubleday didn't do her part to research case studies on autism or director Jules Stewart wanted to make sure she was seen as the "damsel in distress" love interest for Saxx to rescue I couldn't say, but I can say it turned an opportunity from discussing sexual assault in the prison system into exploitation. The writing – and Stewart was co-writer – lends itself to the latter.
Kate del Castillo clearly has fun as Julio "Mousey" Ruiz, but she's all over the place. Belligerent, loving, jealous, devious: it's a hodgepodge of emotions with little rhyme or reason for her actions. I read another review commenting it's a delightful change from her sweet, demure portfolio. What must be a refreshing challenge for her is a disappointment in this role; her performance lacks the genuine vulnerability that would make a viewer care about Mouse as a human.
D. B. Sweeney does provide a creepily fueled performance as Johnson; I believed every word he said and I am always thrilled when an actor is willing to commit to a risky project with such vivacity. I would have more to say about Gore Visnjic if he actually did anything, but I'm not even sure why Saxx is in this movie if not to provide a basis for us to meet the more bizarre personalities in K-11 from a "straight" persona.
In reviewing K-11, the casting of women of transsexuals in three principle roles cannot be ignored. Should you argue that maybe Kate Del Castillo and Portia Doubleday were perhaps the hands-down, best fit for this role, I’ll counter with their confused and unfocused performances. It is insulting to imply it was impossible to find one transgendered actor in the thousands upon thousands of talented artists in the U.S. that couldn't play who they are better than a female actress. Jules Stewart told Echo Mag that she “wanted a female to play a man become a women since [the character] was halfway there.” The article goes on to say her experience with transgender and transexual actors was limited prior to the film, but the few trans actors in the background and minor roles provided a reference and she learned a great deal. I hope she learned that this was the perfect opportunity to bring an underrepresented to the forefront of culture and her casting those three actresses relegated them to the background.
Above all that, I can't help but wonder what the point of this whole story is. It's entertaining, I'll give you that, but didn't the Shawshank Redemption already show us the natural human inclination to create a familial community in the darkest of places? And do it beautifully? Stewart may be trying to explore this from an LGBT standpoint, but if the point is that we're all the same, why write a different story? And why negate the whole point by casting women? I wouldn't even call this a horror movie; it's just a still life of prison in L.A.
I will give credit to Stewart for showing the hierarchies, rampant drug trafficking, sexual assault, and overcrowded prison system in the US. We fail more often than we succeed in providing a place for criminals to rehab. In a moment of tenderness, one sweet fashion designer says to his inmate friends, "I think I might make bail next week, but I'm scared to go home." Home becomes the prison and the inmates keep coming home.
This movie, on the other hand, will leave you out in the cold.
Video, Audio and Special Features:
Video, audio and special features will not be graded as this was a screener.