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CELLMATES

By admin | May 26, 2012

Imagine “The Odd Couple” in a prison setting with race-baiting dialogue and you will have an idea of what to expect from Jesse Baget’s comedy film.

Set in 1976, the film focuses on the unlikely relationship between a Ku Klux Klan Grand Dragon (Tom Sizemore) and a Mexican laborer (Hector Jimenez) in a Texas jail. Assigned to share a surprisingly spacious cell, the men do not quite hit it off – in fact, the Klansman initiates their time together by banging the Mexican’s head in the wall.

However, the slow passage of prison time enables them to find some degree of common ground: a shared anger at the exploitative use of prison labor and the attention of the warden’s pretty Mexican maid (the Klansman, to his surprise, finds himself falling in love and his cellmate serves as the translator for an illicit exchange of love letters).

Baget’s direction does not entirely hide the film’s low budget roots (the prison is conspicuously underpopulated), and a great deal of the film’s politically incorrect humor is puerile. Sizemore and Jimenez play their roles with uninhibited broadness, and they are able spin as much laughs as they can from this unlikely material.

But the real fun here comes from Stacy Keach as a warden who tries (and fails) to instill a mania for potato farming on his highly skeptical prisoners. Considering that Keach is not particularly celebrated as a comic actor, his unexpectedly delirious scene-stealing could be viewed as an act of cinematic grand larceny.

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