by SAMUEL BRASLOW
Think Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood, but with much, much more gay pornography, and you’ve got Cobra Killer. The Justin Kelly-directed film, based on a true story, exists in the world of amateur, Barely Legal-style gay porn. Two competing producers, played by Christian Slater and James Franco, fight over the new male ingenue on the scene, Brett Corrigan (Garrett Clayton), who has a tush that won’t quit and a smile somewhere between “Come hither” and “Who, me?”. As it did in real life, the story climaxes… in tragedy. Along the way, though, there are plenty of sensuously pained expressions, ‘80s throwback appearances by Molly Ringwald and Alicia Silverstone, and Keegan Allen of Pretty Little Liars shouting “No little bitches!” like a CrossFit trainer.
Franco, who said in an article for FourTwoNine that “I’m gay in my art and straight in my life,” has a history of playing gay characters. In I Am Michael (2015), Justin Kelly’s directorial debut, he plays Michael Glatze, a gay activist-turned-preacher. For Wild Horses (2015), a feature written, directed, and starred-in by Robert Duvall, Franco is Ben Briggs, the lover of a teen murdered by his father. Interior. Leather Bar (2013), starring James Franco, is a 40-minute short that attempts to reproduce lost footage from Cruising (1980), a then-controversial crime movie starring Al Pacino from the ‘80s. Franco himself wrote, directed, and starred as the gay poet, Hart Crane, in his 2011 movie about the writer, The Broken Tower. Prior to that, Franco played another famous gay poet, Allen Ginsberg, in Howl (2011). And, finally, he acted opposite Sean Penn in Milk (2008) as Scott Smith, Harvey Milk’s lover.