Okay, so I've got literally hundreds of hours worth of movies around that I haven't watched. So what do I do on Friday night when I'm in the mood for something new? An old classic I've always meant to see? A newer oddball horror flick? A '70s eurotrash thriller? A documentary I taped off of the Sundance Channel?
I couldn't help it. You see, I just picked up[i] Cobra[/i] on DVD earlier that day as part of a Sylvester Stallone double feature with [i]Tango & Cash[/i] for a mere $7 at Wal-Mart. (Yes, I've stooped to buying Stallone movies at Wal-Mart. How "red state" of me!) I was in the mood for trash, and[i] Cobra[/i] delivers high quality trash in spades.
Stallone plays Police Lieutenant Marion "Cobra" Cobretti, a cop who plays by his own set of rules (tm). While other cops do silly things like read perps their rights and arrest them, Cobra just blows them away while making seventh-rate wisecracks like, "You're the disease. And I'm the cure." in a bored, dumbstruck monotone while chewing on a match. His fellow cops, including detective Andy Robinson, don't care for his style much, nor does the media, but his tactics are the only way to stop a vicious cult of axe-wielding madmen bent on starting a "new world order" for some reason or another.
Look, just don't ask. It's better that way. It's clear the filmmakers never bothered to ask Stallone, who changed the script completely from its' origins in a Paula Gosling novel*, how an axe-wielding cult that kills people at random is supposed to produce a new world order. They don't know why, the detectives don't know why, and their major representative in the film, a psycho played by buff character vet Brian Thompson, doesn't know why either. You'll get no answers, so it's best to just let it go.
Anyway, we're firmly in Reagan-era fascist action film territory by the time the opening credits start, as alarmist statitics and a bullet that fries DIRECTLY FROM A GUN INTO YOUR FACE** signals the coming for a new kind of hero. That is, the kind that first came a decade an a half earlier in [i]Dirty Harry[/i]***, but never mind. This one has reflecting sunglasses and less memorable mumbling, so it's completely different.
The opening sequence of the film features Cobra doing away with a violent miscreant on a shooting spree in a grocery store, dispaching the guy with a bullet after drinking a beer, looking sullen and mean and making lots of vague threats. It's actually a well-made, well-edited sequence, which makes things seem really exciting even though very little is going on.
In fact, it's pretty much like that through the rest of the film. Director George P. Cosmatos (who made the fine [i][url="http://www.rottentomatoes.com/vine/journal_view.php?journalid=13186&entryid=156618&view=public"]Of Unknown Origin[/url][/i] and later [i]Tombstone[/i]) gives things a great '80s colorfulness and stylization that could easily be taken for Michael Mann lite. Okay, so the music is corny and the sequence where fashion model Brigitte Nielson, the sole witness that Cobra has to protect, poses with a bunch of shiny robots, is pure camp, but dammit, this thing moves. It almost moves so fast you don't get a chance to realize how insipid it is.
Inevitably, of course, you'll catch on, usually during the quieter scenes. Cobra has a few of these with his sidekick Reni Santoni****, who introduces himself as a detective a half-hour into the film, which is good, because with his newsboy cap, vest, passion for junk food and "aw, shucks" attitude, I'd mistaken him for a middle-aged Dead End Kid. The less said about the romantic scenes between Stallone and Nielson the better, and, for some reason, there's no scene where police chief Art La Fluer***** yells "You're off the force, Cobretti!" at our hero.
But the action sequences are as entertaining as they are illogical. Cars go crashing through unlikely things, psychos go slashing with improbable weapons, and people get crushed and slaughtered with such regularity that you'd think you were watching ten slasher films in one. It's a bit like [i][url="http://www.rottentomatoes.com/vine/journal_view.php?journalid=13186&entryid=156618&view=public"]Death Wish 3[/url][/i], only without all that meddlesome character development and motivation, though, like that film, the bad guys are such one-dimentional psychos that any chance for moral gray area is virtually impossible. (The fact that their plan makes no sense helps as well.)
So, yes, [i]Cobra [/i]is crap. Mindless, awful, violent, repulsive, filthy, soulless, poorly-acted crap that deserved the wrath of the critics that scorned it when it was released. However, it's well-made, colorful, rapidly-paced crap that serves as a great timepiece of the age it was produced, especially for Stallone, who followed this with [i]Over the Top [/i]and [i]Rambo III[/i], making this the first of his "trilogy of man camp" that turned him from A-lister to Hollywood joke in just a few years. Irredeemable but compulsively watchable, [i]Cobra [/i]manages to work mostly because it doesn't work at all.
[size=1]* -- The novel was also the basis for the William Baldwin/Cindy Crawford classic [i]Fair Game[/i], thus making it the only novel to have been made into an awful piece of male camp[i] twice[/i]. [/size]
[size=1]** -- An effect done a few years later in the opening credits to the "Sledge Hammer!" TV series, which satirizes this kind of movie. The title role in that was played by David Rasche, who plays a photographer in [i]Cobra[/i].[/size]
[size=1]*** -- ...which features Andy Robinson in a great performance as the Scorpio killer. Robinson, as I mentioned a couple paragraphs ago, is a detective in [i]Cobra[/i].[/size]
[size=1]**** -- ...who was also in [i]Dirty Harry[/i]. Sigh.[/size]
[size=1]***** -- Art LaFluer is the character actor who looks like Mike Starr, but isn't. He wasn't in [i]Dirty Harry[/i], but he was in one of the Eastwood/orangatan movies and two [i]Trancers [/i]films.[/size]