By Thomas Price, Contributing Writer
Justin Kelly’s new film “King Cobra” is an experience, to say the least. The crime drama about the gay porn industry features an absolutely engaging story developed in both a thrilling and erotic tone. Its protagonist Sean (Garrett Clayton) is an aspiring filmmaker who starts creating porn under the pseudonym Brent Corrigan, only to become wildly popular. He soon finds himself wanting increasingly more money and freedom from Stephen (played by Christian Slater), his producer who find himself also wanting more but of a far different variety. Meanwhile, amateur porn filmmakers Joe (James Franco) and Harlow (Keegan Allen) are also trying to make a name for themselves while maintaining their passionate yet insecure relationship.
This film is a success on every possible level. Starting at the base level, the writing comes together with crisp and honest dialogue masterfully brought to life by the stellar acting. The evocative performances that each of the four main actors deliver, especially that of Christian Slater and Keegan Allen, creates stirring moments of emotion and physicality that are vibrant and raw. Moving forward, the cinematography held the line beautifully between the sensual, the human and the exhilarating.
The duality in the harshly lit and breathtakingly close handheld shots inhibit all of the scenes with palpable heat, whether it be from carnal physicality or the oppressive tenseness. Compared to the ordinary moments in between, it contrasts beautifully. It is within each of these ordinary moments in which Kelly brings these characters above one-dimensional caricatures and fleshes them out as fully human individuals with complex lives beyond the porn industry.
The film’s editing creates a gorgeous, fluid piece that continues the artistic vision the film set out to create. One scene in particular, cutting between the contrasting reactions of Sean’s mother (Alicia Silverstone) and Stephen’s sister (Molly Ringwald) to the situation they have found themselves in is so clearly the scene where the editing goes from being seamless to elevating the movie to another level.
“King Cobra” is by no means a film which mainstream audiences will necessarily flock to, yet I consider it one that they absolutely should. It is sexual, visceral and desperately human. It is an unbridled triumph through every technical aspect and more importantly tells a provocative, entertaining, and fresh story uncompromisingly.
“King Cobra” tackles themes that range from love, family and intimacy, to fame, lust, sexual assault and insecurity with careful yet unflinching hands that allow for it to become something far more than simply an erotic thriller. It is a story that dives into the gay porn industry with both honesty and intrigue only to let the real life events that guide it take it into an entirely engaging direction that is an absolute must see for those who are prepared for it.
This film was released on Friday, Oct. 21 and is playing at the IFC Center.