King Cobra

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"Hello? Gay headquarters? [snicker] I'd like to report someone pretending to be gay [snicker]..."

Despite being a true story of jealousy and murder in the world of gay porn, “King Cobra” is neither thoughtful enough to find meaning in it nor seedy enough to turn it into trashy fun. Instead, it’s a blandly watchable but ultimately pointless melodrama aimed at titillating gay audiences without actually satisfying them.

Garrett Clayton, a Zac Efron clone also spawned from the Disney Channel, stars as a teenage twink who calls himself Brent Corrigan and wants to be a porn star. He gets his wish with Stephen (Christian Slater), a skeevy, closeted, forty-ish photographer who runs a “barely legal” site and is smitten with Brent. Meanwhile, a mentally unbalanced hustler named Joe (James Franco – of course James Franco is in this, and co-produced it) is trying to make his dopey submissive boyfriend (Keegan Allen) the next big thing.

Writer-director Justin Kelly (who made “I Am Michael” with Franco) bites off more than he can chew, resulting in rushed dialogue that’s mostly exposition and declaratory sentences. The four principals all have complex psychological issues worth exploring, but all Kelly can do is mention them and hope something sticks. Slater and Allen find moments of effective sleaziness and/or humanity; Franco, who doesn’t seem to be taking it seriously, and Clayton, who is not a good actor, do not.

Accuracy-wise, “King Cobra” is as pornographic as a film can be without actually showing any genitals. Now, you might think that a movie about the gay porn industry would show a wang or two – but remember, this one involves full-time cocktease James Franco, whose career choices are guided by the fact that he’s obsessed with penises but doesn’t want to see or touch one (on camera, anyway). As with so many true stories, the fictionalization is far less compelling than the source material that inspired it.

C- (1 hr., 31 min.; Not Rated, probably R for a lot of strong sexuality and sexual dialogue, a little nudity, brief violence.)