Tuesday, August 16, 2011


Cobra (1986)
Dir. George P Cosmatos
Starring Sylvester Stallone, Brigitte Nielsen, Brian Thompson

A cute little ante up on the already ludicrous DIRTY HARRY films, this one takes the lone wolf action cop things to levels which could generously be described as parody. Stallone plays officer Marion “Cobra” Cobretti, the kind of guy who wears aviators inside. He’s the kind of guy who’s gonna find a way to have an explosion involved while stopping some punks from robbing a grocery store. Everyone on the force already knows not to even call him in on anything unless they’re prepared for a special effects show. He drives a muscle car. He owns his own machine guns. It’s pretty righteous.

Most things about this movie do not work very well, and it goes without saying that anything remotely interesting in the script or concept is laughably underdeveloped. The villain is Brian Thompson (the more cultured out there will remember his cartoonishly chiseled face as the Alien Bounty Hunter from The X-Files) who everyone knows is the nefarious serial killer the Night Stalker. What only Cobra suspects for no reason is that there isn’t just a single Night Stalker, he’s actually the head of a secret society of serial killers, who target poor defenseless model Bridgitte Nielsen as their next victim and will stop at nothing to kill her. Cobra’s superiors correctly point out that his theory makes no sense and has no evidence at all to support it, but they recognize that he’s pretty much the awesomest guy ever and agree that the poor defenseless model needs some security. Obviously that means Cobra is gonna get assigned to protect her, take her out to the countryside and have ten kinds of sex with her, possibly have to fight off hordes of armed maniacs on motorcycles, who knows, could be anything, you gotta be prepared for whatever in this line of work. This is all a modestly interesting idea but the script does absolutely nothing with it, barely even bothering to address why in God’s name these Night Stalker people are doing this, much less explaining it in any kind of satisfactory or intriguing way. Likewise, plot strands about Cobra’s difficulties with Internal Affairs and his romance with Nielsen are so perfunctory that they might as well just have had an intern hold the cue cards up right to the camera.

But the one thing that really matters in a movie like this ends up working just fine, and that’s Stallone’s enjoyable deadpan hyper-macho killing/sex machine. Believe it or not, apparently Stallone wrote this one as BEVERLY HILLS COP but left that project because he wanted to make a more serious action movie. Looking back, this is probably funnier. But the movie is so self-assured about how badass it is that you end up buying into it and ultimately it’s the most ludicrous parts which work the best. The script may waste its concept, characters, and themes, but at least it wastes no opportunities for big action set pieces. The finale finds Cobra combating dozens upon dozens of gun-toting generic thugs in a hotel, then a lemon grove, and finally in a steel plant. It’s pretty fun, and suitably oversized if a little generic. But weirdly, the one thing not oversized is the runtime -- the thing ends up feeling too short. At 87 minutes, there’s only time for three big action sequences and no time for anything to feel like its escalating. Still, if you’re a youngster trying to figure out what the deal is with all these larger-than-life lone-wolf cops which only appear in comedies now, this is a pretty good example of how close to parody the genre already was by 1986.

There are better George P. Cosmatos Golan/Globus productions (if you have to ask, you’re not ready to know the answer) but this is a fine mid-level one which at least won’t waste much of your time doing anything other than exploding. I think Officer Cobretti would appreciate that.

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