Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB. USA, 2016. RabbitBandini Productions, Yale Productions, SSS Entertainment, Digital Ignition Entertainment, SimonSays Entertainment, BondIt. Story by Justin Kelly, D. Madison Savage, Screenplay by Justin Kelly, based on the book Cobra Killer: Gay Porn, Murder, and the Manhunt to Bring the Killers to Justice by Andrew E. Stoner, Peter A. Conway. Cinematography by Benjamin Loeb. Produced by James Franco, Vince Jolivette, Scott Levenson, Jordan Yale Levine, Iris Torres. Music by Tim Kvasnosky. Production Design by Anastasia White. Costume Design by Matthew Simonelli. Film Editing by Joshua Raymond Lee.
Handsome young Sean Paul Lockhart (Garrett Clayton) shows up at the house of an independent porn producer (Christian Slater) and after filming a few scenes very quickly becomes an internet sensation. Slater quickly becomes a svengali to the young man, personally obsessed with him while happily exploiting him financially, but their setup turns sour when Lockhart, who performs under the name Brent Corrigan, balks at the small fraction of profits he is receiving for the exploitation of his jailbait appeal. Across town, an aspiring producer (James Franco) pimps his young boyfriend (Keegan Allen) to keep them afloat, seeing the chance to climb to the top of the porn industry and remove their financial difficulties when he gets wind of Corrigan’s desire to branch out and leave his current work situation. Slater refuses to let his young charge out of his contract, prompting Corrigan to reveal to the world that he was not yet eighteen when he made his first films, but when that scandal backfires, his new friends come up with their own very dark scheme that they’re sure will solve everyone’s problems. Based on the real-life murder case of Bryan Kocis, this is a fascinating and exciting melodrama that has no apologies in offering up the sex appeal of its players while also never becoming preachy or judgmental either: director Justin Kelly isn’t a proud hypocrite who looks down on the men of this world who trade in and provoke feelings of delicious lust. One assumes that the commodification and hyper-glamorization of sex that porn provides would remove the vulnerability that comes with emotional connection and commitment, but we see here that the dangers of ego, possessiveness and ambition create their own fears in place of romantic insecurity. Where fate takes these characters is terrifying and very upsetting, but with a sharp script and a host of wonderful performances (including a surprisingly potent Alicia Silverstone as Corrigan’s mother), it is also a highly charismatic and memorable film.