Movie Review: K-11 Lets Lofty Ambition Get In The Way Of Trashy Camp

This is not the transgendered prison film you're looking for.

“I want a jailhouse fuck and I want it now!”

There's either a part of you that calls this poetry or there isn't. Better still, this line is delivered (bellowed? howled? hollered? yes, hollered) by a Latin drag queen to a bumbling, corrupt prison guard (D.B. Sweeney) inside a cheaply designed fake prison set. And that Latin drag queen is actually a biological woman (telenovela star and Mexican supermodel Kate del Castillo) done up to appear as a man altered to appear as a woman.

Best still, though, the punchline. Castillo, portraying Mousey, the firm but fair leader of the K-11 ward, an actual section of the Los Angeles Country jail for gays and transgendered, is seducing Sweeney as part of a complex third-act plot to get the bad guy. As Sweeney is taken away in cuffs he turns to Castillo (and to us) and entreats “But...but you said you wanted a jailhouse fuck! You said you wanted a jailhouse fuuuuuuuck!”

On this description alone you may be convinced screenwriters Jared Kurt and Jules Stewart may rank as the next Budd Schulberg and John Sayles, but, alas, these moments of vision are too far and few between in the dull, disappointing K-11, a wanna-be exploitation picture that somehow manages to make a trannies-in-prison movie uninteresting.

Stewart, also the director, is Kristen Stewart's mother, and her tabloid connection is undoubtedly the only reason this microbudget flop even exists.

K-11 stars Goran Visnjic as a Tommy Wiseau-ish entertainment exec who, after a bender, ends up in jail. . .and in the WRONG WARD! The K-11 section is filled with bitchy queens who help run the prison's underground economy by shitting out plastic balls filled with heroin. (Why their asses are better suited for this sort of thing is somewhat short-sighted, in my opinion.) Co-stars Jason Mewes and Tommy “Tiny” Lister (don't get your hopes up, they don't appear in drag) are part of the mix, as is Portia Doubleday, as the tender wounded nutjob “Butterfly.”

I must admit that it is an interesting notion casting biological women as transgendered men. Doubleday's Butterfly simply looks like a girl, unlike Castillo's Mousey (whom I didn't realize was not a biological man til I looked her up afterward.) Part of me thinks this is a milestone in the emerging cisgender debate, part of me thinks this was Tiny Lister's way of saying there was no way he'd do a sex scene with an actual guy. My guess is that the truth lies somewhere in the middle.

The drama in K-11 - will Visnjic find escape, will Castillo's gang gain full control of the drug ring – is, as I'm sure you can imagine, wholly uninteresting. There's a bit of play, however, in the Shock Corridor-esque aspect of seeing the K-11 wing through the eyes of a stranger. And, yes, I'm talking about a prison fashion show.

In the midst of the cursing, raping and killing everyone takes a time-out for a dancebreak and a walk down the runway. I'll give a nod to the costume designer (and I was delighted to see it was The F.P.'s Sarah Trost) who gets creative by manipulating the standard lock-up dress into all sorts of fabulous ways. Bland white socks turned into ladies' gloves, for example, is a nice touch.

If only Jules Stewart had the smarts to stick with the trashy, campy elements. She'd have a midnight favorite on the West Hollywood-Chelsea circuit for years to come. Unfortunately, K-11 is delusional enough to think it is an actual drama with characters. Doubly upsetting is how the performances aren't so over-the-top as to be laughable. What I'm trying to say is that the bulk of K-11 is stuck in that valley of being bad, but not so bad that it's actually good.

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