When The Hollywood Reporter likened former script supervisor (and mother of K-Stew) Jules Stewart’s high-trash directorial debut to “a deranged John Waters remake of The Shawshank Redemption,” a pull quote that splashes across the film’s poster and website, it wasn’t really meant as an endorsement. That’s the frustrating thing about the artifice of camp and a deliberate use of its shock-comic exaggerations (paging Susan Sontag!): Critiquing it can accidentally give it more artistic weight. More like an on-the-nose parody of Lee Daniels directing an episode of Oz, K-11 is a pulpy, tone-deaf mess of confused directorial intent—exploitation laughs one minute, somber tragedy the next—set in a cheapjack, single-room cellblock. Unlike every other coked-out cartoon of a performance, star Goran Visnjic is sincere as a Hollywood record producer arrested during a heroin bender, who is then incomprehensibly thrown into K-11 by a perverse, corrupt, closeted guard (D.B. Sweeney, in a Hitler hairdo). Lorded over by Mexican transsexual tuck-job Mousey (Kate del Castillo), this queer-only hell behind bars (minus two lone heterosexuals, Visnjic and Tommy “Tiny” Lister, playing a child rapist) offers grindhouse punchlines like “I want a jailhouse fuck, and I want it now,” but too few kitsch pleasures to reach cult status.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on March 13, 2013