Starring Garrett Clayton, James Franco, Christian Slater, Keegan Allen, Alicia Silverstone, Molly Ringwald
Paul Thomas Anderson’s award winning Boogie Nights explored the porn scene so articulately I am not sure another filmmaker can match it. Writer, director and producer Justin Kelly (I Am Michael) certainly tries as he adapts the shocking true story of Brent Corrigan’s introduction into the gay porn scene during the early 2000’s. Disney’s Teen Beach star Garrett Clayton (a second rate Zac Efron) makes the leap into more dramatic territory alongside James Franco who continues to explore homosexuality on film. The real Brent Corrigan, (whose birth name is Sean Lockhart) insists Kelly’s version of the story, taken mostly from news reports, doesn’t tell the whole truth. Instead of an edgy film about sex and violence, King Cobra feels like a network television movie of the week.
Sean Paul Lockhart (Clayton) tells the owner of “Cobra Boys” Stephen (Slater) that he chose the name Brent Corrigan by flipping through a phone book. Stephen looks like a normal Pennsylvania suburban resident, but inside his cookie cutter house he is King Cobra the creator, director and producer of gay porn featuring whatever young boy he can coax onto camera. Brent Corrigan becomes the biggest online sensation, catching the attention of rival porn producers “Viper Boys” Joe (Franco) and Harlow (Allen). Stephen forbids Sean’s departure, threatening legal action if he uses the performer names elsewhere. Joe and Harlow need the Brent Corrigan name to increase their sales and decide to help get Sean out of the contract.
For a movie that focuses on the shocking and heinous industry of pornographers seeking out young impressionable boys, it’s surprisingly tame.
“It’s fun to play with who we are,” Stephen says when Sean points out that neither of them are like their online personalities. This story has a chance to shine an often ignored light on the gay porn industry the exists more often inside a San Diego home than a dark studio somewhere. Slater is the only part of the cast that really gives a believable performance. His version of Stephen is a compilation of Brian Kocis, the real Cobra Boys owner who was brutally murdered in 2007. Clayton doesn’t have the acting skill to portray this type of complicated, multidimensional character. His striking similarities to predecessor Zac Efron clearly landed him the role. Lockhart, who is about to turn 30, spoke out against the casting of Clayton; “not the type of boy Kocis would have selected”.
King Cobra is scared to death to be an edgy, exploratory film that points fingers and makes accusations. For a movie that focuses on the shocking and heinous industry of pornographers seeking out young impressionable boys, it’s surprisingly tame. Age old movie icons Silverstone and Ringwald appear in almost cameo scenes (likely as a favor to Franco), in an attempt to give the film credibility, but that fails too. The script is torn between telling a version of Lockhart’s story, while simultaneously trying to explain the background and motives of other characters. Kelly’s story becomes more of “this happened” then “this happened” without any illusion or background on the three parties who all strive for screen time in a relatively short film.
Misses every opportunity to be a provocative and edgy exploitive film about the dangerous gay porn industry.