Reviews - Specialty Releases


Film Review: Cellmates

Plodding, unfunny prison comedy in which a white racist shares a cell with a naive young Mexican. Still, it's nice to see Tom Sizemore working.

May 31, 2012

-By Frank Lovece


filmjournal/photos/stylus/1343248-Cellmates_Md.jpg

For movie details, please click here.

Filmmaker Jesse Baget does a lot of things right with his second feature, following his 2006 horror film El Mascarado Massacre, released direct-to-DVD in 2008 as Wrestlemaniac. He wrangled a couple of name actors to star (presumably handling the casting chores himself, since no casting director is listed), found an authentic-looking prison location, and made a professional-looking movie with some stylistic flourishes on a low budget and what he's said was 13 shooting days. Since completing the movie last year, he's directed he comedy thriller Breathless, with Gina Gershon, Val Kilmer and Ray Liotta, debuting on DVD this August, and is directing the Nicolas Cage movie Wild Side, scheduled to start shooting in July. Both of those, like Cellmates, are co-written by himself and Stefania Moscato.

And that, unfortunately, is where Cellmates falls flat. An odd-couple comedy of a racist Texan Klansman sharing a prison cell with a sweet-tempered young Mexican, the movie plods and repeats itself, and shows filmmakers with no natural aptitude for comedy. And while its one-note characterizations seem deliberately archetypal and the visual style seems to signal a larger-than-life, fable-like quality, it reaches neither plateau.

It's 1976, and local KKK Grand Dragon Leroy Lowe (Tom Sizemore) is serving three years at the Low Lee Tuna Prison Work Farm in Tuna, Texas, for conspiracy against the U.S. government and tax evasion. After his Klansman-buddy cellmate Bubba (the appealing and very natural Kevin Farley, brother of the late Chris Farley) chokes on a piece of baked potato, Leroy gets paired with Mexican naïf Emilio Ortiz ( Nacho Libre co-star Hector Jimenez, one of the executive producers). Emilio, thrown in prison for taking part in a migrant workers’ strike, never shuts up, and after Leroy gets tired of beating him—funny stuff, boy, ho, ho!—he just tries putting up with him as best he can.

During one of Leroy's regular weekly sessions with Warden Merve Merville (Stacy Keach)—who must have a very small prison if he's spending an hour a week with each inmate, simultaneously rehabilitating and intimidating with his encyclopedic knowledge of potatoes, which the prisoners grow—he catches the eye of the warden's maid. The young, pretty Madalena (Olga Segura, whose company Producciones a Ciegas helped make the film) inexplicably takes a shine to Leroy, and soon the two are passing each other surreptitious notes—hers in Spanish, which he needs Emilio to translate.

The movie is filled with long stretches of the chatty Emilio and the lecturing warden talking at a helpless Leroy, and aside from the repetitiveness it signals a key problem with the picture—in scene after scene, it jabbers on long after the point has been made. Baget was his own editor, and a supervising editor is credited, yet the plot moves as slowly as a prison sentence. Often the movie repeats in dialogue what we've just seen.

Keach does the best he can with his character's aphid anxiety and with clownish, over-the-top lines like "This country was built on the backs of minorities working for nothing and I'm here to make sure that it stays that way." Jimenez’s character is just a Stepin Fetchit idiot, and his hatred of his wild, unruly hair makes no sense—why not just have the prison barber cut it? Better yet, why not have the editor cut his hair fixation—along with much of the rest of the movie.


Film Review: Cellmates

Plodding, unfunny prison comedy in which a white racist shares a cell with a naive young Mexican. Still, it's nice to see Tom Sizemore working.

May 31, 2012

-By Frank Lovece


filmjournal/photos/stylus/1343248-Cellmates_Md.jpg

For movie details, please click here.

Filmmaker Jesse Baget does a lot of things right with his second feature, following his 2006 horror film El Mascarado Massacre, released direct-to-DVD in 2008 as Wrestlemaniac. He wrangled a couple of name actors to star (presumably handling the casting chores himself, since no casting director is listed), found an authentic-looking prison location, and made a professional-looking movie with some stylistic flourishes on a low budget and what he's said was 13 shooting days. Since completing the movie last year, he's directed he comedy thriller Breathless, with Gina Gershon, Val Kilmer and Ray Liotta, debuting on DVD this August, and is directing the Nicolas Cage movie Wild Side, scheduled to start shooting in July. Both of those, like Cellmates, are co-written by himself and Stefania Moscato.

And that, unfortunately, is where Cellmates falls flat. An odd-couple comedy of a racist Texan Klansman sharing a prison cell with a sweet-tempered young Mexican, the movie plods and repeats itself, and shows filmmakers with no natural aptitude for comedy. And while its one-note characterizations seem deliberately archetypal and the visual style seems to signal a larger-than-life, fable-like quality, it reaches neither plateau.

It's 1976, and local KKK Grand Dragon Leroy Lowe (Tom Sizemore) is serving three years at the Low Lee Tuna Prison Work Farm in Tuna, Texas, for conspiracy against the U.S. government and tax evasion. After his Klansman-buddy cellmate Bubba (the appealing and very natural Kevin Farley, brother of the late Chris Farley) chokes on a piece of baked potato, Leroy gets paired with Mexican naïf Emilio Ortiz (Nacho Libre co-star Hector Jimenez, one of the executive producers). Emilio, thrown in prison for taking part in a migrant workers’ strike, never shuts up, and after Leroy gets tired of beating him—funny stuff, boy, ho, ho!—he just tries putting up with him as best he can.

During one of Leroy's regular weekly sessions with Warden Merve Merville (Stacy Keach)—who must have a very small prison if he's spending an hour a week with each inmate, simultaneously rehabilitating and intimidating with his encyclopedic knowledge of potatoes, which the prisoners grow—he catches the eye of the warden's maid. The young, pretty Madalena (Olga Segura, whose company Producciones a Ciegas helped make the film) inexplicably takes a shine to Leroy, and soon the two are passing each other surreptitious notes—hers in Spanish, which he needs Emilio to translate.

The movie is filled with long stretches of the chatty Emilio and the lecturing warden talking at a helpless Leroy, and aside from the repetitiveness it signals a key problem with the picture—in scene after scene, it jabbers on long after the point has been made. Baget was his own editor, and a supervising editor is credited, yet the plot moves as slowly as a prison sentence. Often the movie repeats in dialogue what we've just seen.

Keach does the best he can with his character's aphid anxiety and with clownish, over-the-top lines like "This country was built on the backs of minorities working for nothing and I'm here to make sure that it stays that way." Jimenez’s character is just a Stepin Fetchit idiot, and his hatred of his wild, unruly hair makes no sense—why not just have the prison barber cut it? Better yet, why not have the editor cut his hair fixation—along with much of the rest of the movie.
Post a Comment
Asterisk (*) is a required field.
* Author: 
Rate This Article: (1=Bad, 5=Perfect)

*Comment:
 

More Specialty Releases

Time is Illmatic
Film Review: Nas: Time is Illmatic

Intended as the portrait of an artist as a young man, the music doc Time Is Illmatic is actually more interesting as a look back at the place and time that created him. More »

The Decent One
Film Review: The Decent One

A behind-the-scenes portrait of one of the Nazi regime’s most fearsome executioners. More »

The Two Faces of January
Film Review: The Two Faces of January

Good pulp yarn about three disparate Americans—an aging con man, his lovely young wife, and an impetuous tour guide—who meet their destiny among the ancient ruins of Greece. More »

Tazza 2: The Hidden Card
Film Review: Tazza 2: The Hidden Card

Wildly entertaining and kaleidoscopic, this sequel to a Korean hit is strictly aces. More »

ADVERTISEMENT



REVIEWS

The Equalizer Review
Film Review: The Equalizer

Former agent is drawn out of hiding to fight a Russian gang in a reboot of the 1980s television series. More »

The Boxtrolls
Film Review: The Boxtrolls

Another amazingly meticulous and stylish stop-motion tale from the Laika studio, this time focusing on a boy adopted by a population of maligned underground trolls. More »

Player for the Film Journal International website.


ADVERTISEMENT



INDUSTRY GUIDES

» Blue Sheets
FJI's guide to upcoming movie releases, including films in production and development. Check back weekly for the latest additions.

» Distribution Guide
» Equipment Guide
» Exhibition Guide

ORDER A PRINT SUBSCRIPTION

Film Journal International

Subscribe to the monthly print edition of Film Journal International and get the full visual impact of this valuable resource for the cinema business.

» Click Here

SPONSORSHIP OPPORTUNITIES

Learn how to promote your company at the Film Expo Group events: ShowEast, CineEurope, and CineAsia.

» Click Here