Thursday, February 13, 2014

My Favorite Era: Cobra (1986)

It seems almost too good to be true but there was a time when Sylvester Stallone and Cannon Films made movies together.  Sure, it was only for two films but both Over the Top and our subject today are bad movie classics.  Cobra is, for all intents and purposes, a Dirty Harry film only with Sylvester Stallone in the lead.  It takes the main character and renames him, makes things a little less gritty than the Eastwood films tend to be, but in terms of story structure it is Dirty Harry to its very core.

Really, the main difference is that the Eastwood films seemed to take the political implications of the main character a little less seriously than this one which is... Well, it's a Stallone movie so you know that while his character may be silly and he has a good sense of humor about things, he does take his films very seriously.  In the case of this movie, as with the Rambo films, it's best to just ignore the politics and enjoy the ride whereas with the Dirty Harry films, I always got the sense that Eastwood and company weren't taking that aspect of it all that seriously.

Sly plays Marion Cobretti, known as Cobra, an elite LAPD officer who has to protect a gorgeous model (Stallone's then-wife Brigitte Nielsen) from a cult of psychos led by The Night Slasher (Brian Thompson).  Much action, gratuitous property destruction and silliness ensue.  Let's take a closer look.
  • The script was what Beverly Hills Cop was initially going to be like with Sly in the role but he ended up leaving the project and I have to say, the world of film is far better off for it.  Eddie Murphy got a comedy classic... And so did Sly.  His script is very careful to include every single action movie cliche in the book.
  • It begins with Sly croaking out a list of crime stats as a gun is drawn from its holster, aimed and fired right at the screen.  Not often you see a movie more or less dare the critics to write that the film was as much fun as getting shot in the face.
  • The credits play out over a blood red horizon as a biker rides towards the camera.  We also get intermittent shots of The Night Slasher and his gang just standing in a warehouse clanging axes together in rhythm.  It's like the worst heavy metal video you have ever seen which is appropriate since later in the film we will see a really bad pop video.
  • Our intro to Cobra gets off to the standard start as a wild-eyed psycho walks into a grocery store, clearly comes off as more unstable than the San Andreas Fault, and then proceeds to shoot up some produce.  Yep, the guy we will find out is a member of a psycho nihilistic cult bent on bringing about a new world through wanton violence decides to make his first kill the fresh produce aisle.  To be fair, he does kill a few people but that's not his first target.
  • Cobra gets the usual impossibly cool intro as he drives to the scene in a classic car, decked out in leather and denim with a pair of mirrored sunglasses.  And yet, Stallone seems to think the audience will take the movie seriously.
  • Once Cobra gets into the market it's a blazing fury of product placement as Cobra plays mind games with the nut before getting the drop on him and shooting him.  The product placement is really brutally obvious though (much like the movie), Coors and Pepsi practically permeate the scene.
  • The trio of fellow officers we see is truly something to behold.  first off is the great Art LaFleur as Cobra's boss.  He's solid as usual though underused.  Still puts in good work, as does Reni Santoni as Cobra's partner Gonzales.
  • Not so solid is Andrew Robinson as Monte, the obligatory disagreeable prick (though to be honest, he does have some good points) who clashes with Cobra.  Robinson is a good actor but there are times when he comes across as just plain unstable.  Not the most believable police officer I have ever seen.  He's not even a red herring or anything, though there is a cop in league with the villains.  He's just disagreeable just for the sake of being a prick.
  • The biggest sign Stallone wanted this to be like a Dirty Harry movie: getting Santoni and Robinson cast, both of whom were in the first Dirty Harry movie.
  • Cobra at home is amusing as we see that he keeps his gun cleaning kit in a carton of eggs in the fridge; uses a pair of scissors to cut a piece of cold pizza for himself and generally has zero social skills.  Not sure how the hell Stallone thought this would be seen as anything but parody but that's Sly for you.
  • I love that this film takes place during the Christmas season.  Lot of that going around in the 80's as far as action films go.  Guess it's supposed to be "ironic".
  • Brian Thompson is pretty decent as The Night Slasher.  he's big and imposing, though his ultimate plan seems somewhat vague.  Not really sure how he figures on winning but then again, he is a psycho.
  • Brigitte Nielsen is... Well, she's tall.  That's about all she has going for her really as she can't act worth a damn.  She doesn't have a lot of chemistry with Stallone during their scenes either, which may explain why the marriage didn't last.
  • Her second scene after she witnesses Thompson and his crew at work is the main thing that dates the movie the most... Well, besides Stallone's cliche ridden script.  More or less a montage of Cobra and Gonzales asking random folks about the killings going on intercut with shots of Nielsen's character Ingrid doing a photo shoot in all sorts of glam makeup with robots while a bad rock song plays.  Sub in a Phil Collins tune and you have a really messed up episode of Miami Vice.
  • Not sure why whenever Cobra posits that there is more than one killer at work, everybody looks at him like he has a second head growing out of his shoulder.  It's a reasonable guess since the murders don't follow a set pattern, it just gives Andrew Robinson something to yell about.  It's sort of like on Different Strokes whenever somebody's eyes would glaze over because apparently the notion of adoption is a foreign one to them.
  • Midway through, we get a really fun car chase as Cobra speeds Ingrid away the hospital after she's nearly been killed.  Stallone used his own car for this movie (stunt cars were used for the stuff that voids the warranty of course) and in general, the scene is a nice bit of over the top action.
  • After the chase, Cobra and Gonzales take Ingrid upstate and of course, the bad guys follow.
  • The romantic stuff with Cobra and Ingrid doesn't work.  Not sure why films keep casting genuine couples as cinematic couples, it almost never works out.
  • The climactic shootout/truck chase is pretty good but the highlight is the showdown with Cobra and The Night Slasher.,  Since this is a cheesy 80's action film, it takes place in a factory.  Sly has some good lines and the fight with Thompson is pretty damn good.  It's a fine way to end the film.
  • Not so fine is the god awful song that plays over the end credits.  Just cheese at its worst.
Cobra is pure 80's cheese at its cheesiest.  A cliche ridden script, bad dialogue and acting and mindless violence.  It's quite a thing to watch, provided you have a sense of humor and don't take things too seriously.

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About Me

I've been a huge fan of action, horror and comedy for as long as I can remember.