Can't We All Just Get Along?
What might happen if a Ku Klux Klansman and a Mexican field laborer shared the same jail cell? Probably nothing like the hilarity depicted in Cellmates, starring Tom Sizemore and Hector Jimenez. But never mind about that. This off-beat comedy, directed and co-written by Jesse Baget, is a wonderful combination of humor and social commentary. Surprisingly, it also boasts one of the most touching screen romances I’ve seen this year – thanks to a beautifully understated performance by Olga Segura.
After Leroy (Sizemore), grand dragon of the Texas KKK, and Emilio (Jimenez) are thrown together as roommates in a prison work farm, Leroy can’t control his anger. He begs Warden Merville (Stacy Keach) to change this deplorable situation. But Merville wants to rehabilitate Leroy, so he refuses to change his mind, which means Leroy must endure Emilio’s constant chatter about almost everything, but mostly his bushy hair and unjust incarceration. Leroy also has to put up with Merville in weekly sessions where he talks and talks and talks about potatoes.
Fortunately, during these meetings, Merville’s lovely Mexican maid Madalena (Segura) quietly dusts and sweeps the office. When Leroy and Madalena make eye contact, things start slowly changing for the tough Klansman. He even decides to help Emilio with his “cause”-- and his hair.
Sizemore (Big Trouble) pulls out all the stops here as a man who must challenge his longstanding racial beliefs. Although some scenes require him to go a bit over the top, Sizemore is superb at projecting Leroy’s sincerity concerning his feelings about Madalena. Jimenez (Nacho Libre) provides most of the fun in Cellmates. But he also evokes our empathy – and we want everything to work out for Emilio because of Jimenez’s convincing performance. Speaking of fun, Keach (W.) seems to be having a ball as Warden Melville! He’s definitely on a roll with his potato-obsessed lectures. As Madalena, Segura (Todo un hombre) speaks volumes with her eyes and body language. She’s a delight to watch. Here’s hoping we see her in more films soon!
With Cellmates, director Baget and co-screenwriter Stefenia Moscato (who both worked on Breathless) offer us an unusual comedy that delivers an important message. If individuals as different as Leroy and Emilio can become friends and help each other, maybe the rest of us should re-examine our own ethnic and racial biases.
(Released by White Knight Films, LLC and rated "PG-13" by MPAA.)
For more information about Cellmates, go to the Internet Movie Data Base or Rotten Tomatoes website.