Oh, lord. Is this flick produced by the Cannon Group, the most lovable pair of shameless profiteers that Hollywood has ever seen? Yes, it is. Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus did as much for my love of shitty movies as any other filmmaker not named Carpenter. But, this month isn’t about Cannon. It’s about Sly Stallone. And Cobra, the 1986 film written by Sly and directed by George P. Cosmatos (who went on to direct films about a killer rat and a fish monster), might just be peak Stallone. Coming the year after Rocky IV, Sly wasn’t going to get any bigger.
Cobra follows Marion ‘Cobra’ Cobretti, a cowboy cop in Los Angeles who doesn’t have time for things like due process and rules. He’s the guy the cops call when they need a cop. In this flick, Cobra and his partner, Tony (Rani Santoni), are after the Night Slasher, LA’s newest serial killer. What they don’t know is that the Night Slasher (Brian Thompson), is part of an outlaw biker death cult that wants to change the world. I get that crime in the cities was pretty bad in the 1980s, but it’s silly to explain it away as the work of biker death cults. But that would require nuance, and that isn’t what this flick is about.
Sly didn’t mince words when it came to his screenplay, or how Cobra feels about justice. It’s law and order tripe of the worst kind, and would be fearful coming from the mouth of a politician. Being an ’80s action flick, however, it makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.
“You’re the disease, and I’m the cure.” That’s right.
“I don’t deal with psychos. I put ‘em away.” Goosebumps.
“As long as we play by these bullshit rules and the killer doesn’t, we’re gonna lose!” Aw yeah, that’s the stuff.
Here’s the thing about being a cowboy cop. Cobra believes scumbags have no rights. Fine, but out here in the real world the result of that attitude is eventually killing someone innocent because cowboy cop was sure they were guilty. But, instead of being raked over the coals for killing an innocent, the story would be, “with the information we had at the time we believed the suspect was guilty so we blew his brains out. Not our fault.” That’s why everyone has rights. If there exists a class of people, in this movie’s case, psycho criminals, who do not have rights, it becomes easier for those in charge of those rights to move innocent people in and out of the protected classes as they please. But, this is a movie. I should just relax, right? It’s not like we have someone in the Oval Office who might think Cobra is a documentary.
Cobra is not a movie for the faint of heart. Cannon didn’t shy away from the violence. In fact, it was part of the draw for many of their films, and Cobra is no different. The body count is very high in Cobra, and a big pile of the deaths were very gruesome. There is no lightheartedness or black humor to be found anywhere in Cobra.
It isn’t the prototypical ’80s super-violent cop flick, but it sure is a lot like McBain. In fact, this is the movie I wanted to see when I was watching Nighthawks. Instead, Sly ended up chasing an urbane European terrorist in that one. Yuck. Brian Thompson, on the other hand, is every law abiding citizen’s nightmare. He has had a long Hollywood career, mostly in small parts, but he was quite good in this film. He just looks like the last person one would want to meet in a dark alley.
His prey in this film includes a model, Ingrid Knudsen (Brigitte Nielsen), whom Cobra ends up protecting. Cowboy cop, damsel in distress, psycho killers. Have I mentioned that this is the perfect ’80s cop flick, yet?
There was only a small window in time when this type of material was right for Hollywood. In a lot of ways Cobra is a mean-spirited film, and I have to wonder if there’s a flaw in our animal brains that makes something like this entertaining. But, it was. It’s not a great flick, but if one happens to be in the mood to watch over fifty people die in spectacular Hollywood fashion, Cobra is a decent choice. It’s a better film than Alien: Resurrection, anyway.
One last tidbit. This is from my notes while I was watching:
Okay, I’m not hallucinating. Stallone kept his black leather gloves on, which he wears in Southern California, by the way, while he ate leftover pizza and cleaned his gun. Come on, man. No movie badass needs to be that badass. Take off the gloves. Grab a paper towel. Your mother would be horrified if she saw this behavior.
Looking back while I write this review, he might have even kept his sunglasses on, as well. Sly, you are one bad mother, and that’s why you get a whole month.