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Review: ‘Cellmates’ is cruel and unusual punishment

Set in an East Texas work prison in 1976, the turgid indie “Cellmates” pairs an incarcerated Klan bigwig (Tom Sizemore) with a happy-go-lucky Mexican fieldworker (Hector Jimenez). The bigot endures the lectures of a potato-farming-obsessed warden (Stacy Keach, full throttle) and falls for a pretty Latina maid (Olga Segura).

Really, you can’t blame Sizemore for turning the simplest physical movement or line of dialogue into a hoedown of over-gesturing. Co-writer/director Jesse Baget’s incessantly talky mix of faux-Coens-style redneck grandiloquence and un-Coens-like visual flatness leaves the fidgety star trapped in garish close-up for most of the film.

Then there’s the ethnic queasiness of Jimenez stuck playing a dimwitted man-child and Segura having to melt at the thought of bonding with a sweaty, loud-mouthed racist.

A near complete exercise in mirthlessness and atonal satire, “Cellmates” is a sentence, all right.

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“Cellmates.” No MPAA rating. Running time: 1 hour, 25 minutes. At Laemmle’s NoHo 7, North Hollywood.


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