Black Cobra 3: The Manila Connection (Cobra Nero 3) (1990)
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Though this is the most polished and well made of the trilogy, Black Cobra 3 places second in my ranking of the trilogy behind the second film and above the first. While the film suffers a bit since it takes itself way too seriously at certain points, causing some scenes to drag, it made up for such flaws most of the time through awesomely cheesy action scenes, ridiculous acting, funny humor, and some shameless T&A for good measure. Unless you like watching these types of films and are a fan of the previous two films, this is not recommended for most people. I came for trashy fun and it gave me exactly what I wanted from films of its type. It's a fitting end to this ridiculous franchise, to say the least since it follows the logic and trashiness of its predecessors so well.
I believe "Black Cobra 3" came about a mere minute after "Black Cobra 2" rapped. Director Edoardo Margheriti no doubt said to Fred Williamson in his thick Italian accent "Hey, I had fun doing this cheap action drek. Want to do another one?" to which Williamson replied "Fuck yea! I got to pay for my special cigars as they don't come cheap!" Margheriti then responded "Great! We'll have a script banged up by Friday" and thus "Black Cobra 3" was born rounding out a complete trilogy (despite there "technically" being 4 films... more on that later.")
Like the last picture this zero budget Italian actionsploitation epic was filmed in the Philippines so we have to get Lt. Robert Malone back into the country somehow. We'll for plot convenience he has a cousin that works as an INTERPOL agent in the Philippines that gives him a call one day out of the blue to come help him with an arms smuggling ring. Malone happily agrees and the rest of the film is espionage and jungle shoot outs as Malone and his two partners sneak into a hidden compound.
Surprisingly this sequel feels far more like a Macaroni Combat picture as opposed to a Poliziotteschi picture like the first entry. I mean we have jungle warfare and machine gun fire up the ass... sounds like a typical Rambo inspired Macaroni Combat picture to me! Well the first film ripped off "Cobra" so why not rip-off a different Sylvester Stallone picture? I actually enjoyed this new approach, perhaps I just haven't had enough Macaroni Combat in my diet of late?
Since this was filmed basically back-to-back with the last film and has the same director at the helm that it shouldn't be surprising that it has the same look and flaws. Interesting camera work: Check. Poorly choreographed fist fights: Check. Extremely bad acting: Check. Long sequences of characters walking: Check. Entertaining as fuck: Check. What can I say, I have a soft spot for these zero budget Filipino shot Italian films.
Other than the new Macaroni Combat plot and approach, "Black Cobra 3" comes out being exactly what you would expect from Fred Williamson and crew. Fans of these Italian Z-grade action films will find plenty like. Sadly this was second to last Italian film Williamson made as the Italian film market would crash not to long after, no doubt due to films like the "Black Cobra" series. Still it was fun while it lasted.
Whoa... I almost forgot, this ISN'T the last "Black Cobra" film...e rrr... technically at least. Not long after cult director Umberto Lenzi would direct a fourth film entitled "Detective Malone" but surprisingly it doesn't have Williamson in it. Instead they used stock footage of Williamson from the previous 3 "Black Cobra" films to intermix into the newly shot footage while using stand-ins for Williamson every once-in-while. For that reason I'm dying to see it but it's hard has hell to come by. On a funny note I had a buddy meet Williamson at a film festival and he said the fourth film was a "bunch of shit." Fucking great! That just makes me want to see it more!
Chicago police detective Robert Malone (Williamson) travels to the Phillipines to work on a joint CIA/Interpol mission to recover or destroy a cache of stolen weapons and prevent a hi-tech blackmailer from exposing CIA operations around the world.
"Black Cobra 3" is an improvement over "Black Cobra 2", but it's not quite as good as the original in the series. Once again, the one thing that made Malone more than just another third-rate action hero has been left out... his pet cat. In fact, he's even less of a character here than he was in the previous installments of the series--here, he's simply a generic action hero who beats up or guns down scads of bad guys because duty to country and the son of an old army buddy calls. (Those are fiine motivations, but a little bit of character flavor for Malone would have been nice.)
Speaking of the script, overall it's a little better than the two previous outings, but ultimately it ends up dissapointing because it is so predictable. There's a mole in the CIA that's leaking every move Malone and his colleguess make to the bag guys, and there's only one possible suspect for who it might be. (Yeah, the writer makes a halfhearted attempt to spread the suspicion around, but it seems clear that no great degree of thought went into this script other than "how to get the characters from one fight to the next, and from the shoot-out to the exploding secret hideout?"
The fight scenes are as well photographed in this film as they were in the two previous films, and there seems to have been enough of a budget this time out to do some rehearsals and real choreography. The bigger budget is also evident in the many shoot-outs and explosions, not to mention the escape-by-helicopter during the film's climactic battle in the secret mountain hide-out of the villains. (The fact that Fred Williamson's acting seems better in this film than the previous outings may also be a result of a bigger budget; he's being paid enough to actually [i]work[/i] instead of just showing up and running lines.)
One that that isn't better in this installment is the dubbing. Often, lip movements are noticable different from what is heard on the soundtrack--even for the English-speaking actors who did their own dubbing like Williamson--and early in the film the attempt to match the dialogue to the lips is so badly done that it sounds like the voice actors either didn't understand the lines they were speaking, or they were being directed by a drunk Christopher Walken impersonator of limited talent. The random pauses in the middle of sentences, and the weird inflections make very simple exchanges tricky to follow.
"Black Cobra 3" is the end of a very mediocre trilogy of action movies that teeter on the brink between mediocre and bad. The most remarkable thing about it (and the films the preceeded it) is that the main character, Malone, seemed to devolve into more of a generic action hero as the films progressed instead of grow. I suppose that's something noteworthy, as most of the other action film series (except perhaps "First Blood"/"Rambo" see the central heroes become more defined and three-dimensonal instead of less.
Black Cobra 3: The Manila Connection
Starring: Fred Williamson, Forry Smith, Debra Ward, and David Light
Director: Don Edwards
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