‘King Cobra’ delves into the world of gay porn, being graphic but not too revealing or vulgar. Director Justin Kelly proves to be a maestro of discreet authenticity, adapting for the big screen the book by Andrew E. Stoner and Peter A. Conway, ‘Cobra Killer: Gay Porn, Murder, and the Manhunt to Bring the Killers to Justice.’
The film and book are inspired by the true story of Sean Paul Lockhart, a.k.a. Brent Corrigan, a young man from San Diego who was discovered by an influential porn producer and eventually became a star. The cinematic adaptation gradually builds up to the gruesome murder of the forty-four year old entrepreneur Bryan Kocis (Stephen in the movie), because he was standing in the way of a couple of gay adult film producers who wanted to hire Brent.
‘King Cobra’ transforms into motion pictures the words of the Stoner-Conway book, through crude images that are never tasteless. Nudity is restrained to buttocks and carefully orchestrated sex, but there are no frontal scenes or obscene depictions. The director manages to be brutally suggestive without becoming sleazy.
Equally praiseworthy is his casting choice. Christian Slater, playing Stephen, effectively portrays a buttoned-up debauchee who gets vulnerable and possessive towards his young porn star. Just as fit for the role is Garrett Clayton, a former Disney star, interpreting Brent. His resemblance to Zac Efron enhances the way prodigy child actors have embraced roles that contrast with their wholesome debut-image, to test their versatility. Thus, Clayton confronts a challenging role using his ingenue looks to embody the wannabe porn celebrity, creating a very effective juxtaposition. For the little we see them, also Alicia Silverstone (as Janette – Brent’s mother) and Molly Ringwald (as Amy – Stephen’s sister) deliver fervid performances.
James Franco, playing Cobra’s rival producer Joe, and Keegan Allen, as his partner Harlow, delineate a psychologically intriguing relationship. One in which dominance and submission goes beyond sexual intercourse but determines the day to day relationship, that spans from work decisions to the ultimate act of violence that Harlow carries out persuaded by Joe. Their chemistry on camera is gripping and leads the suspense of the story.
‘King Cobra’ withdraws from political correctness and cheap voyeurism, finding the perfect equilibrium to account a grisly piece of crime news connected to the gay porn industry, through a sexually cerebral thriller.
Written by: Chiara Spagnoli Gabardi