It all started out so simply. You travelled to LA to star in a gay porno – (just one!) – and five films and a paedophilia scandal later you’re wanted for murder. It’s hardly a glowing endorsement for the adult film industry.
When Brent Corrigan (played with the perfect mixture of charm and innocence by Garrett Clayton) first sits down in front of a video camera, everything seems simple and fun. But it’s very quickly apparent that something toxic is brewing. While homosexuality is increasingly accepted in the Western world, several of King Cobra’s main characters remain in the closet and this is just the first of many secrets that tear their world apart. Outing each other becomes a ready blackmail tactic, with these grown adults who are happy to embrace every aspect of their sexuality on screen afraid to identify as queer in everyday life.
Past repressions and rejections loom large, and lead to a poisonous cycle of jealousy, abusive relationships and exploitation. Alongside lead Clayton are superb performances from Christian Slater, Keegan Allen, and James Franco, who throw themselves into such an explicit film with full commitment. Slater is quietly unsettling as the porn-producing King Cobra of the title but Allen steals the show with his preening bro-ness. Playing dumb as porn star Harlow he gets many of the film’s biggest laughs, bringing welcome comic relief to what can otherwise be quite a dark story.
Tim Kvasnosky’s electro-fairytale score propels this tale alongside excellent direction from Justin Kelly. He brings real sensuality to the sex scenes while building a smothering atmosphere of desperation and lust. In the end King Cobra’s mixture of wild fun and hidden darkness embraces the message of seminal porn chronicle Boogie Nights: it’s all fun and games until someone gets hurt.
CAST: Garrett Clayton, Christian Slater, James Franco, Keegan Allen, Alicia Silverstone, Molly Ringwald
DIRECTOR: Justin Kelly
WRITER: Justin Kelly (story & screenplay), D. Madison Savage (story)
SYNOPSIS: This ripped-from-the-headlines drama covers the early rise of gay porn headliner Sean Paul Lockhart aka Brent Corrigan, before his falling-out with the producer who made him famous. When Sean decides he’d be better off a free agent, a cash-strapped pair of rival producers aim to cash in by any means possible.