When Raymond Saxx (Goran Visnjic) awakens in a Los Angeles County holding cell, he's disoriented, suffering from serious withdrawals, and nursing a massive hangover. In fact, Raymond is such a wreck that he doesn't even know why he's in prison, but before he can ask his cellmate Butterfly (Portia Doubleday) to help him get his bearings, Lt. Deputy Johnson (D.B. Sweeney) shows up and hauls him off to K-11, a unit in the prison system reserved for gay and transgender inmates. Raymond doesn't belong in K-11, both because he's not gay and because he didn't commit the murder he discovers he's been framed for, but his frustrated insistence that he's innocent fails to soften K-11 queen bee Mousey (Kate del Castillo), a feisty Latina trans woman who refuses to let anyone but herself stir up trouble.
It's hard reviewing a film like K-11: a film lacking in focus paves the road for a review lacking in focus. First, I suppose, some production history: the film was directed and co-written by Jules Stewart, mother of Kristen. Stewart's famous daughter was once slated to play Butterfly before Twilight turned her into a Hollywood megastar (in the finished film, Stewart makes a vocal cameo in the movie that literally lasts seconds). Then again, maybe she would have bailed on her mother anyway: K-11 is a distressingly sloppy mix of stereotypes and cliches. Although Stewart blends these elements into a series of events, there's not really a story here.
Take Saxx, for instance. The DVD of K-11 is graced with a quote comparing the movie to The Shawshank Redemption, which is also about a guy who was framed for murder, but that film (skill aside) had 180 minutes to actually be about that character coping, adapting, forming relationships, etc. Comparatively, Stewart informs the viewer that Saxx didn't commit a crime we never see via TV newscast, a scene that tells us who did, and...that's about it. Nearly every other scene in the movie with Visnjic (and there are lots of scenes without him) is basically centered around him passively observing the ups and downs of life in K-11, telling us nothing about his character or doing anything in the way of giving that character an arc or journey aside from looking less upset and shocked at the end of the movie than the beginning.
"Life in K-11" consists of a string of salacious nonsense, none of which really forms into a cohesive whole. There's a poorly-explained drug ring of some sorts going on in the office with Johnson and Mousey's boyfriend Ben (Jason Mewes). Emotionally troubled prisoner Detroit (Tommy "Tiny" Lister) begins raping Butterfly on a regular basis, which everyone stands around and listens to in horror. Johnson himself looks to have his way with Saxx, while spiraling into a coke addiction. There is no connection between these elements other than the fact that they occur in the same movie, and are all meant to indicate how terrible the unit is. Interesting to note that K-11 actually exists in the LA prison system, and that it is voluntary, but that must not make for a good movie.
The worst part of the movie, though, is Mousey herself, a character built solely out of every stereotype you can think of about angry Latinas, violent women, "bitches", and transgendered women. Every moment she's on-screen is obnoxious, fueled by del Castillo's commitment to these painful, reductive ideas. No doubt people like this do exist, but even with the slow transformation of the character as the movie continues, the underlying message of the beginning is that this person is scary, that being surrounded by gay people as a straight person is scary, and that Mousey's exaggerated appearance is disturbing. In doing so, Stewart also writes herself into a corner in which the only way out for Saxx is a series of morally questionable actions. Whether or not a certain kind of wrong deserves another is an interesting question for a movie to tackle, but K-11 isn't it.
A grimy prison wall with Visnjic crumpled beneath it doesn't really reflect the tone of the movie so much as the set-up (never mind the comically oversized glamour shot of Del Castillo's peeking through the window). The disc comes in a standard cheap Amaray case (when I grasped the notch on the side of the case to open it, the case actually broke), and there is no insert.
The Video and Audio
K-11 is granted a strong 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen presentation and Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack. Although some faint banding lurks in the shadows during the movie's first ten minutes, the rest of the film displays a healthy layer of grain, impressive fine detail in close-ups, and what appears to be an accurate rendering of the film's sickly, subdued blue / gray / green color palette. Audio is mostly dedicated to replicating that specific prison echo, with emotionally diverse surround highlights such as the agonized screaming of an unwanted sexual encounter and the cheers and jeers of a prison fashion show to bring the rear speakers to life. No subtitles are provided, but the disc features a closed-captioning stream for those with compatible televisions.
An audio commentary by director / writer Jules Stewart and producer Tom Wright is pushed all the way to the main menu. A sampling of the track during some of the film's more controversial moments doesn't reveal much discussion of the themes or thoughts on the film's messages, just trivia about the production and compliments for the performances.
"Behind the Scenes" (1:57) is mostly a clip of the actors off the set, although there are two B-roll segments that follow. A few deleted scenes (1:39, 2:43, 1:51, 0:07 -- that's right, seven seconds) are next. The first is the most interesting, and would've provided at least a little crucial backstory for Raymond. Interviews are also included, with Goran Visnjic (5:27), Kate del Castillo (4:36), D.B. Sweeney (2:30), and "Others" - Cameron Stewart, Billy Morrison, producer Tom Wright, Markus Redmond, an unidentified woman that might be executive producer Michelle Berk, and Jason Mewes (6:25). The enthusiasm of Visnjic and del Castillo is endearing and infectious...too bad the film doesn't capitalize on it (although, even though it's innocent, del Castillo should probably rethink her choice of the word "creepy"). The disc wraps up with a "My Liberty" music video (a song you'll already be tired of after hearing the menu loop a few times), and a photo gallery.
Trailers for Laurence Anyways, Dead in France, and Silver Case are accessible from the special features menu. An original trailer for K-11 is also included.
K-11 aims to push buttons, but doesn't do so with any governing rhyme or reason. The fact that it's by Kristen Stewart's mother may get it a few curiosity points, but it's sloppy, aimless, and bordering on offensive. Skip it.
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