King Cobra (2016)

King Cobra
Director: Justin Kelly
Writer: Justin Kelly
Based on: the murder of Bryan Kocis as written about in Andrew E. Stoner and Peter A. Conway’s book Cobra Killer: Gay Porn, Murder, and the Manhunt to Bring the Killers to Justice
Cast: Garrett Clayton, Christian Slater, Molly Ringwald, James Kelley, Keegan Allen, James Franco, Alicia Silverstone
Part of: Transition Festival special screening
Seen on: 19.1.2017

Plot:
Sean Paul Lockhart (Garrett Clayton) comes to L.A., meets producer Stephen (Christian Slater) and quickly finds himself a rising star in the gay porn scene under the name of Brent Corrigan. Life is good for a while, but when Sean tries to get out from under Stephen’s thumb, he finds ironclad contracts and practically no wiggle room. When he is approached by Harlow (Keegan Allen) and Joe (James Franco) about making a film together, he hopes to find help to get out of those contracts. But that help might look very different from what Sean had in mind.

King Cobra was entertaining enough, but also very problematic at some points. It makes time pass quickly, but could have profited from a less sensationalizing take.

I haven’t read the book this is based on, but judging from the title alone, I doubt that it’s the most laid-back take on the story. And since the story doesn’t just involve sex and drugs and a murder, but also UNDERAGE! GAY! PORN!, it is easily sensationalized. But especially because of that, I would have appreciated a more steady hand in the making of the film.

But understatement is certainly not the film’s mission. And there are bits that work very well for it. Sometimes the film is really hilarious (and not just because of the hilariously bad subtitles we got – that, for example, translated “Welcome to my humble abode” like “Welcome to my boat”). And it is well paced enough that time just flies by.

Trouble is that in its attempt to be funny, the script tends to throw the characters under the bus. That means that a lot of jokes come at their cost and not just from them. That would be problematic in any film (good character handling is essential) but it is especially devastating in a film that is a) based on real people and b) about people in a marginalized group. A lot of it just felt too much like punching down for me.

So, despite the entertainment it provided (and the usual “James Franco is so hot my brain stops functioning” bonus), the film left a slightly bitter taste in my mouth (and not just because Alicia Silverstone was criminally underused).

Summarizing: It’s watchable, but do take it with a grain of salt or five.

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