‘King Cobra’
Director:
Justin Kelly
Stars: Garrett Clayton, Christian Slater
Rating: R
3 (out of 5) Globes

The true tall tale of Sean Paul Lockhart, whose not very good porn name was Brent Corrigan, probably isn’t that funny; someone died, after all. And “King Cobra” isn’t strictly a comedy. But it is often funny, as well as sleazy, as well as even tragic. A tale of idiots hatching moronic schemes that backfire spectacularly, it’s no “Pain & Gain,” in which Michael Bay, of all people, tried to pretend he was smarter than the dimwits onscreen. Unlike Bay, director Justin Kelly has the smarts to combine the high camp with deep feeling. The result is one of the best films supporting player James Franco has ever produced; coincidentally or not, he didn’t direct it.

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Disney Channel star Garrett Clayton dirties up his image, and how, as Lockhart/Corrigan, an obscure and not too bright object of desire to everyone, even before he busts out his schlong. Young and dumb and full of lots of cum, he’s whisked into the gay porn business not by the promise of a “Boogie Nights” bacchanalia of drugs and partying. Instead he goes to work for Stephen (Christian Slater), a sadsack with granddaddy glasses who operates in secret behind the bland picket fences of Nowhere, Suburbia. This Brent Corrigan kid is an instant hit, so much that he attracts the attention of a pair of coked-up knuckle-scrapers (Franco and Keegan Allen), whose own porn business has fallen, in part because they live like Hollywood producers who just lucked into Marvel money. (Franco dives into the sex and make-out sessions with the verve of someone giddily fanning the flames of the Internet’s gaydar.)

Kelly has a tricky tone to work with here, giggling at this barely glamorous world and the delusional cads who make it work, and throwing in, for extra yuks, '80s and '90s casualties Molly Ringwald and Alicia Silversone. But he also feels for them, or at least for Stephen. Among other things, “King Cobra” confirms the Slater-aissance is for real: Slater gives a heartbreaking turn as Stephen, a mousy shlub who comes off like a pathetic lech, who seems to have become a porn god because that’s the only way he can get laid — and even then, he still has to beg and cheat for it. He’s the smartest man in the room, which is also a tragedy; no one can stop the wheels of fate when they’re being spun by the dumbest and most drugged-out people on the planet. Slater deepens and enriches a movie that would have just been a laugh-at-the-stupid-people romp, though that might have been fine, too.

Follow Matt Prigge on Twitter @mattprigge