BY Sunnivie Brydum
April 23 2013 5:00 AM ET
When gay men and transgender women are incarcerated in the Los Angeles County Men’s Central Jail, they’re placed in a distinct dormitory with each other, in an effort to protect them from harassment at the hands of the general prison population. This ward, once known as K-11, is the subject of a new, unflinching prison drama from director Jules Stewart, a seasoned script supervisor who has worked in Hollywood for 30 years. (She’s also mother of Twilight star Kristen Stewart, who has a voice cameo in the film, and Cameron Stewart, who makes his acting debut as a prisoner.)
After a successful run on the festival circuit, K-11 is now available on Blu-Ray and DVD. The fast-paced, gripping thriller features stellar performances from its lead actors, including ER’s Goran Visnjic as the literal and figurative “straight man,” Raymond Saxx, a record producer thrown in jail for drug use. D.B. Sweeney is a sniveling, detestable foil to Raymond, as the corrupt prison guard Sgt. Johnson. As Ben Shapiro, Clerks star Jason Mewes serves as Johnson’s “man on the inside,” helping the officer funnel drugs into the prison at an exorbitant markup.
But the true star of the movie is Mexican actress Kate del Castillo, who shines in her most captivating, nuanced performance in English-language film as the self-proclaimed queen of the dorm, a Latina transgender woman named Mousey. Mousey is by turns sweet and vicious, conniving and vulnerable, at some moments the villain, at others the victim.
"You feel sorry for her,” says Del Castillo. “And on the other hand, she’s a bitch."
Mousey rules the dorm with an iron, manicured fist, physically striking down anyone who challenges her authority. She and Raymond forge an unexpectedly tender, symbiotic relationship in the film, which was shot inside a jail destined for demolition — a location Del Castillo calls “scary as hell.”