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A quirky, over-the-top comedy, “Cellmates” delivers some laughs along with its message about overcoming prejudice. But it is too crazily offbeat to work either as satisfying comedy or worthy polemic. The acting is outsized, to say the least.
The film has been directed by Jesse Baget, who co-wrote the screenplay with Stefania Moscato. Tom Sizemore plays Leroy Lowe, a grand dragon of the Ku Klux Klan in Texas (the year is 1970), and Lowe winds up in a prison work farm for tax evasion. The warden-farm owner is played outlandishly by Stacy Keach.
As we have seen in the stage play “Other Desert Cities,” Keach is an excellent actor. But here he is reduced to no more than a cartoon as he loudly spews venom and terrorizes Lowe into accepting that the warden is boss and the aim is to grow and harvest potatoes with backbreaking work, even more so if there is any effort at defiance.
The joke here involves redemption by giving Lowe a Mexican cellmate, especially since the bigoted Klansman hates Mexicans. The cellmate, Emilio, is played by Hector Jimenez as another cartoon-like character. The more Lowe tries to make life difficult for Emilio, the more his racism is undone by Emilio’s friendly ways. A touch of romance is added with the appearance of Olga Segura as a Mexican cleaning woman who captures Lowe’s heart.
“Cellmates” becomes an unlikely buddy movie about breaking down the barriers of bigotry. Despite the message of goodwill at the core, the film is too far-fetched to be taken seriously. A Cavu Pictures release.