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A Brave and Deeply Disturbing Movie That Deserves a Wider Audience
Billy Hayes may be best known for his novel cum 1978 film 'Midnight Express' which detailed his tortured life in a Turkish prison. But here Hayes turns his penchant for grit and the raw surface of the bigotry of gang violence and amateur boxing into a tale about the intense struggles young men from the dark side of the tracks have in accepting their sexuality. It is a tough story, never flinching on reality or detail, but it drives its message home like a stake through the chest.
Travis Coleman (Bret Roberts) is a handsome young amateur boxer, very much in the closet as a gay man, whose best friend Jacko (Brian Austin Green) is a ne're-do-well gay basher who, though dedicated to his friend's future as a boxer, is equally dedicated to street fighting anyone who questions the asexual closeness of their friendship. Travis has a girlfriend Annie (Wendy Fowler) who disapproves of Travis' friendship with Jacko. Travis is torn between caring for his abused mother (Kay Lenz), training with his fight manager Pascoe (Greg Mullavy), maintaining his high maintenance friendship with Jacko, and coming to grips with his moments of self discovery that his true physical needs are in the 'clinch' during a fight when he recognizes (terrified) that he is sexually attracted to men. When he fights Sangster (Christian Payne) a 'Northie' (we have no idea which town this is except that it has a Northside and Southside in conflict) he is sexually aroused, a fact that Sangster confides in his Northie buddies. Homophobic epithets are sprayed on the cities walls and Jacko attacks the perpetrators, killing gay bashers in a mutually destructive series of conflicts. When Travis wins an important fight that will allow him to move to Las Vegas, he is told by everyone to ditch Jacko, but Jacko has just murdered to defend Travis' honor, complicating Travis' life even further. He confesses to Jacko that he is indeed is gay and the two face dire consequences from this revelation.
The script is heavily reliant on gross language and while the words constantly used are story appropriate, the language becomes overbearing. This is a film with a lot of violence, one that while many films about same sex attraction are becoming more popular with the public, manages to remind us that many sexually conflicted people continue to face odious odds in being who they are. Both Brian Austin Green and Bret Roberts give wholly credible performances as so the bulk of the supporting cast. The film is shot with a gritty edge (Scott Seidman has done a terrific Production Design) and Director Hayes never for a minute lets us forget the dire level of existence in which all of the characters live. COCK AND BULL STORY ranks with Hayes' own MIDNIGHT EXPRESS as a story that despite its grungy details needs to make the public aware of a life very dark. It is an unjustly underrated film. Grady Harp
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