TFF2016: King Cobra

James Franco (right) broke the gay internet when he posted this photo of him and costar Keegan Allen in Nasty Pig underwear

Going into a movie about the Brent Corrigan murder scandal—co-starring James Franco, no less—one might expect a trashy guilty pleasure, something entertaining and titillating but on the level of something you might find on Here! TV.  Luckily for us, King Cobra is really, legitimately good, even with enough campy melodrama and quotable dialogue to qualify for modern day cult classic status.

            In King Cobra, Sean Lockhart (Disney heartthrob Garrett Clayton in a breakout performance) remakes himself as porn pup Brent Corrigan under the guidance of “Steven” (Christian Slater), a mild-mannered suburban guy with a taste for young boys and a thriving porn operation.  When the increasingly diva-ish Sean chafes at Steven’s control, he sets out on his own, only to find himself hamstrung by his mentor’s control of his stage name.  Enter (James Franco and Keegan Allen), an alternately dim-witted and angry pair with delusions of porn super stardom, who want to hitch their wagons to Sean’s star by any means necessary.

            “Spoilers” is a relative term here, since the facts of this case have been fairly well-publicized, but even if you know what will go down King Cobra holds your interest with a twisty narrative and a preponderance of style, from the production design to the crisp cinematography to the wonderfully synth-y score (plus a few well-chosen music cues; Scissor Sisters’ “Filthy/Gorgeous” was made for this montage).  Director Justin Kelly elicits strong performances and no small amount of comedy from everyone in his cast.  Christian Slater does mesmerizing work, perfectly capturing the mess of contradictions in his self-loathing porn maestro; Clayton nails Corrigan’s mannerisms and manages to portray both his manipulative nature and childlike innocence; and James Franco goes big but to wonderful effect.  He and Allen share electric sexual and comedic chemistry and are at the center of many of the movie’s best moments.

            With small appearances by the likes of Alicia Silverstone and Molly Ringwald—we’ve missed you both, ladies!—King Cobra is likely to wind up in many a queen’s DVD collection. 

LQQK Score: Quality-5 Queerness-5

King Cobra screens Friday, April 22 at 8:30pm at Chelsea’s SVA Theatre as part of the Tribeca Film Festival.  Check tribecafilm.com/festival for more info.

Our kind of Disney prince: Clayton