Cobra (1986) Review: Lame movies are a disease, this is the cure
In a pre-apocalyptic L.A. of the not-too-distant future, violent crime has become a rampant disease. Now, meet the cure.
Sylvester Stallone is Marion Cobretti – AKA ‘Cobra’ – a rogue cop who shoots first and drops macho one-liners later. Working on the LAPD’s ‘zombie squad,’ Cobra is a last resort when negotiations fail, and bad guys need to get iced.
When a mysterious cult heralding a new world order of murder and violence starts preying on the population at large, there’s only one man who can take them head on – Cobra.
They just don’t make ‘em like this anymore.
Cobra is an hour and a half of bullets, bodies, and badassitude. We’re talking Stallone in the heyday of the 1980s dystopian action thriller. Think of it as Mad Max meets Rambo in the City of Angels.
Cobretti is the ultimate adolescent male fantasy – a badass vigilante who dishes out justice with a pearl-handled pistol, treats authority with all the respect of a teenager loitering outside a mall arcade, and manages to walk away from a 38 person massacre with his righteous image essentially unscathed. Did we mention he also modifies his pistol into a fully automatic laser-scoped machine gun, punches a police detective in the face, and looks cool doing it?
All the while, Stallone just smirks his way through the movie behind a pair of reflective aviators, matchstick in mouth, gun at his side.
He’s the kind of guy you openly worshiped as a kid, and now secretly do as an adult.
The film opens with a drugged-out Charles Bronson look-a-like (perhaps a little nod to the granddaddy of all action movie badasses himself?) walking into a supermarket, and unloading a shotgun into the produce section.
There’s slow motion milk-splatter, people cowering in fear in the frozen food isle, and Cobra taunting the killer over the store’s intercom.
This scene birthed such one-liners as “I don’t deal with psychos. I put them away,” “You wasted a kid… for nothing. Now I think it’s time to waste you,” and of course, “You’re a disease – and I’m the cure.”
And if this wasn’t enough to get you scouring the internet for the Cobra DVD, let us introduce you to one of the strangest, schlockiest montages in film history.
Picture this: Scenes of Cobra and his partner combing through the dark, seedy underbelly of L.A., abruptly riddled with shots of a heavily made-up Brigitte Nielsen posing half naked next to some life-size chrome robots, all while Robert Tepper’s ‘Angel of the City’ comes crashing down in all its synthy glory.
Like we said, they just don’t make ‘em like this anymore.
If this is all starting to sound a little cheesy, that’s because it is. Sort of. Cobra walks a very taught, thin line between a self-aware action film parody, and an overt-the-top kill-fest that takes itself all too seriously. You can judge for yourself, but we like to think of it in terms of the latter.
Cobra is a bit like watching a comic book in movie form. Maybe it’s the never clearly defined killer cult villains, maybe it’s the gimmicky simplicity of Stallone’s vigilante cop character, or maybe it’s just the very visual approach the movie takes to storytelling.
Lengthy dialogue isn’t Cobra’s ‘thing,’ and much of the less essential plot elements are revealed through visual impressions – mysterious shots of the cult and their weird rhythmic axe clanking, scenes of a city being consumed by avarice and thuggery, and lots of sunsets.
We’d call it a cult classic, but Cobra just feels like cult movie gold. It actually crushed the box office when it was released in 1986, grossing more six times what it cost to make. Even still, just about everything about this flick screams ‘under the radar.’
The only thing that really marks Cobra as Hollywood box office number one, is the ending. Without giving too much away, we’ll just say that everything works out just dandy for Cobretti and his compadres in the end, and the whole flick is wrapped up in a nice little package, complete with a ‘he gets the girl’ bow on top.
We’re not saying that’s entirely a bad thing, by the way. Just a tad pedestrian.
With it’s initial success, and extended life on bargain bin video/DVD, it’s a wonder Cobra hasn’t been tapped for some kind of reboot, or an old-man Stallone sequel.
But hey, don’t mention it to anybody. Right now it’s still a buried treasure for those of us in the know, and we’d like to keep it that way.