Dir: Justin Kelly | Cast| James Franco, Christian Slater, Garrett Clayton | 87min | Drama
The ubiquitous James Franco was once a name to be conjured with: Harmony Korine’s Spring Breakers, 127 Hours and even Pineapple Express showed initial promise for his sterling efforts and energetic talents as an actor, director and writer. But Interior Leather Bar set him off down another track and Every Thing Will Be Fine followed. In KING COBRA he is back on form, once here again teaming up with Justin Kelly (I Am Michael) and lending a certain charisma to his supporting role in this rather seedy gay porn outing, based on the true story of the early career of the soi-disant ‘Brent Corrigan’ (aka Sean Paul Lockhart) played by Garrett Clayton, who we first meet, aged 17, auditioning for Cobra Video, an amateur gay porn company set up by King Cobra himself, Stephen (Christian Slater).
From the get go, audiences will smell a rat when they see Stephen salivating at the discovery of his nascent porn starlet while still purporting to be straight: when his sister offers to set him up on a blind date, he protests: “I can manage my own love life”. You bet he can, and it all originates from the privacy of his own home.
At first Stephen appears to be a relatively low key nonce. He is sadly aware that his ageing looks are a hindrance in bedding desirable under-age men. Although Sean claims to be 18. But delusion is his only bedfellow, and while he kids himself that Lockhart and he are lovers, the blond boy-star has other plans. Far too cute to fall in with Stephen, he swiftly leverages his burgeoning potential by demanding more money from the slippery entrepreneur. And soon enough, perky porn producer Joe (Franco) comes sniffing along and smartly involves Lockhart his boss a ‘ménage à quatre’ with his easygoing partner Harlow ( Keegan Allen) and thus the ‘Viper Boys’ are born, servicing their physical and financial lives. But Joe is clearly also a profligate narcissist with a penchant for fiery temper tantrums when he is thwarted.
KING COBRA’s narrative plays out as a fascinating character study between the four men and their sexual interplay with some decent performances in scenes of an often graphic nature that will go down well if gay sex or gay porn is your schtick. MT
SCREENING DURING THE BFI LONDON FILM FESTIVAL 5 -16 OCTOBER 2016