Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Jules Stewart's K-11 opens in theaters and on VOD: Let's go to transgendered prison!

Exploitation movies comes in all shapes, sizes -- and subjects. Over the decades we've seen Blacksploitation, Gaysploitation, and one of TrustMovies' favorites, Nunsploitation. Perhaps the most enduring of these exploitation subdivisions is Prisonsploitation. The best of the exploitation genre, like the recent Paperboy (which manages to combine  blacks, gays, prison and the American South) is so strongly acted, written and directed that appreciative viewers can but sit back and marvel. When, however, an only fair-to-middling exploitation movie comes along -- such as K-11, the film under consideration here, which tackles prison and the GLBT community -- reactions will run the gamut, as usual, but also, I suspect, be a bit more tamped down.

Said to be based on a real-life story that takes place in a real-life location, K-11 is set almost entirely in and around the section of the Los Angeles County Jail reserved for GLBT inmates, known as the titular K-11. Into this cesspool comes a new inmate, a successful music producer named Raymond (played by Goran Visnjic, at left, of The Deep End and elsewhere). And yes, at this point, as shown above, the poor guy is pretty drugged out. Though a straight male, Raymond is oddly but deliberately placed in K-11 by a vicious guard (D.B. Sweeney, below, left) who either wants to fuck our poor music man or maybe extort some money from him (the fact that Raymond is from Beverly Hills seems to arouse the sleazy guard).

Once inside K-11, Raymond is confronted by the usual suspects. And this is one of the things that, early on, may bother some viewers. Even though K-11 is the first such film I believe I've seen that is set inside that part of a prison reserved for GLBTs, it almost immediately seems like business as usual: been there, done that. And this, despite some very good, balls-out performances from most of the cast members.

These include Kate Del Castillo (at right, of Under the Same Moon and Trade), who pays Mousey, the transgendered inmate who is said to control the ward, and Tommy "Tiny" Lister (below), as Detroit, the big, beefy, black pedophile/sex offender who, to a larger extent, actually does control it. Other inmates are played by Jason Mewes (at right, three photos below, who plays Mousey's tatooed boyfriend) and Portia Doubleday (shown at bottom) as Butterfly, the cute little girl/boy who first befriends Raymond and is often and prominently raped by big boy, Detroit.

Although this ward K-11 is supposedly peopled with only men, the characters of the men transgendered into women are mostly -- maybe all -- played by women. (Will we see a protest by transgendered actors over this, I wonder?) And as good as are the performances, it is still rather obvious who's actually a man and who's not -- which also, in its way, adds to the sense of deja vu we keep experiencing during the film.

K-11 never approaches any kind of documentary feel (nor, I think, does it attempt this). The co-writer (with Jared Kurt) and director Jules Stewart (at left, whose first film this is as direc-tor) seems content to give us melodrama, which would be fine if it were only a bit more juicy & original. This sort of exploitation film des-perately needs juicy melodrama if it is to carry us home. Too much of what we see is secondhand, right up to and including the "plan" in which the good guys unite against the bad to reach the happy ending.

Still, the movie should ignite a little fire in the hearts and heads of those who love prison and GLBT exploitation flix. Del Castillo and Visnjic make an interesting pair of semi-combatants, and the supporting cast is diverse and well-chosen. And from what TrustMovies knows of the L.A. police department, what we see on screen may not be all that far afield.

K-11, from Breaking Glass Pictures and running 88 minutes, opens theatrically this Friday, March 15, in Los Angeles at Laemmle's Noho 7 and in New York City at the Cinema Village. To see all currently scheduled theatrical playdates, click here and then scroll down. The film will also be simultaneously available for home viewing via the on-demand service, iNDEMAND.

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