Monday, October 17, 2016

Justin Kelly's KING COBRA explores the gay porn industry via some real-life characters

Sometimes it seems like just about every second movie is "based on true events." Yesterday's film certainly was; so is today's, though this one deals with a milieu that's a good deal shadier. KING COBRA tackles the tale of one, Sean Paul Lockhart, aka Brent Corrigan and later Fox Ryder, a just-under-age gay kid who leaves his California home to come east and begin making movies and having sex with his mentor/director, the owner of a successful pornography company called Cobra Video. Ambition, jealousy and murder follow.

Earlier this month we covered Seed Money, a documentary about another, even more successful, gay porn operator and his thriving business, though that film -- much more encompassing of time periods, fashions, tastes and trends -- offered nothing so sleazy and blood-splattered as this. Written and directed by Justin Kelly, shown at left, King Cobra proves interesting, of course (what film dealing with all this would not?). It also proves a little too safe.

For a film to want to give us a look at the hardcore porn industry and then completely avoids any full-frontal shots (not even soft: This is a Hollywood product, after all) seems a bit odd, don't you think? Granted, Mr. Kelly and his starry cast are more interested in probing "character" than mere sex play, and he and his actors indeed do a pretty good job of bringing to life these highly troubled strivers.

The four male leads include Christian Slater (above left), as the head of Cobra; Garrett Clayton (center left, above), as the naive twinkie, Lockhart/Corrigan; and James Franco (above, right), as a would-be wealthy fellow who wants to keep his younger, porn-actor lover (Keegan Allen, center, right, and below) in the accustomed style.

Two high-profile actresses -- Molly Ringwald as the Cobra owner's sister, and Alicia Silverstone, as Lockhart's mom -- complete the major cast, but the women's roles are so cursorily conceived and written that these two characters could have been left out of the film entirely with little damage done. No, this movie belong to the guys, as you might expect in a film that deals so heavily with the gay porn industry.

Because three of the four males we meet here are extremely troubled people (Lockhart seems the least so, but then the movie also seems based more on his version of events than on anything else), we're almost constantly confronted with jealousy, ambition run amok, some very bizarre stabs at love (and then some very bizarre stabs), and of course the hot sex. And while the performers are more than up to these tasks, by the finale, despite the obvious strangeness of it all, it somehow seems like a little too much of the same old/same old.

Think of King Cobra as noir gone gay. Or maybe a treatise on the evils of the pornography business (that ends up showing how "good" porn can be made). Or perhaps just a movie that's simultaneously dark and silly. And, in its peculiar way, offers a certain amount of odd, bleak fun.

From IFC Midnight and running 91 minutes, the film opens this Friday, October 21, in limited theatrical release, while hitting VOD the same day.

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