The film does not have much going for it both from the story or characters but it still manages to be a great 80's action.
It is by no means Stallone's best work, however, the dark tone is surprisingly fresh when you consider that Lethal weapon, Robocop and Beverly hills cop, were released a year later.
There's just something about this movie that is so good that one can only understand once you've watched it.
A must see for any Stallone fan, as I feel this one is a truly unique action film.
Cobra starts a little slow, and begins looking something like a Dirty Harry movie with detictive work and a stake out. However, the movie is basically all-out action with very few pauses. The one-liners are a bit uninspired but they serve the purpose of ending the scenes with the hero on top and maybe giving the viewer a chucklle. At the heart is superior action direction with camera angles that seem to be inspired by the Adam West Batman show, and Alfred Hitchcock. The kills are not always creative, but when they are they are pretty stunning, and a lot of people get set on fire. If you are a fan of stunt work, practical effects like actual people in asbeostos suits getting lit on fire, and car crashes, this movie should deliver quite a lot. It also clocks in at 87 minutes which is such a beautiful time for a movie as it adds tremendous re-watch value, and adds to overal watchability when there is limited time to watch a movie.
"Cobra" was loosely based on the novel Fair Game by Paula Gosling, which was later filmed under that title in 1995. However, Stallone's screenplay was originally conceived from ideas he had during pre-production of Beverly Hills Cop, whose screenplay he heavily revised. He had wanted to make Beverly Hills Cop a less comedic and more action-oriented film, which the studio rejected as being far too expensive. When he left that project, Eddie Murphy was brought in to play the lead role. The film received negative reviews, with much criticism focused on the overuse of genre tropes, yet it debuted at the number one spot on the U.S. box office and became a financial success and is now considered a cult classic.
The TV Guide stated that "Stallone's character is an empty hulk...the few attempts to provide us with little insights into his character are downright laughable." The New York Times opined that the film "pretends to be against the wanton violence of a disintegrating society, but it's really the apotheosis of that violence....[it] shows such contempt for the most basic American values". Cobra was nominated for six Razzie Awards, including Worst Picture, Worst Actor (Sylvester Stallone), Worst Actress (Brigitte Nielsen), Worst Supporting Actor and Worst New Star (both for Brian Thompson) and Worst Screenplay. Director Nicolas Winding Refn is a huge fan of Cobra. In Refn's cult movie Drive the main character has a toothpick in his mouth in some scenes; this is Refn's homage to the opening scene of Cobra where Stallone has a matchstick in his mouth. Main star of the movie Ryan Gosling also said in interview that he is a fan of Stallone and Cobra which is why he "borrowed" his character's toothpick habit from Cobra.
The first rough cut was over two hours long (the closest estimated original running time is 130 minutes). It was then shortened to a roughly two-hour director's cut which was intended to be released in theaters. However, after Top Gun became a smash hit, Stallone and Warner Bros. were worried that Cobra - which would premiere the following week - would be overshadowed, so in order to ensure at least one extra screening each day the movie was heavily re-edited. Stallone removed much of the plot and scenes involving characters other than his own. Warner Bros. also demanded that the more graphic scenes be cut down or removed entirely because they were "too intense," and that some action scenes be cut for pacing. When first submitted to the MPAA the film received an X rating, necessitating even more cuts. Some of the cuts made to avoid an X-rating include: the first murder victim having her hands severed; an extended autopsy scene, including lingering shots of naked and mutilated bodies; a longer death for Ingrid's photographer Dan, including a shot of him slipping on his own blood while trying to escape; more deaths of the townspeople during the climax, including a person getting hit in the face with an ax. Eventually, the movie received an R rating and was released in theaters with a running time of 84 minutes, approximately 50 minutes shorter than the first assembly cut and 30 to 40 minutes shorter than the director's cut. Much of David Rasche's role was cut. In the behind-the-scenes making of documentary available on DVD/Blu-ray, an additional (deleted) scene with him and Brigitte Nielsen is shown being filmed. The car chase between Cobretti and the Night Slasher was originally longer and ended differently. The first cut of the movie featured a slightly different version of the climactic confrontation between Nightslasher and Cobretti. Although no uncut version or director's cut has ever seen an official release, a timecoded workprint sourced from poor quality VHS copies is available as a bootleg. It contains all of the X rated scenes and uncut action sequences, along with scenes explaining the motives of the New Order gang, focusing on characters such as Nightslasher and Stalk, alternate lines of dialogue and a temporary score which contains some of the songs and music from the theatrical version and pieces of scores from other movies. The first draft of Sylvester Stallone's script had lot of differences from later drafts and the film. These include opening shootout taking place in movie theater instead of a grocery store and lot more people getting killed, Cobra mentioning how some psychopath he was trying to catch killed his girlfriend, additional big action sequence taking place during night on a boat where Cobra and Ingrid are hiding when they get attacked by Nightslasher's cult members but Cobra and Gonzalez manage to kill them all, and different ending in which it's revealed that Monte was actual leader of the New Order cult and when he tries to kill Ingrid he gets shot and killed by Cobra.
You gotta love the 80s moviemaking. When remembering and re-visiting "Cobra" so many memories comes alive. I have always looked upon "Cobra" as one of Stallone´s "better" films despite many flaws and a quite ridiculous and pompous action script. Maybe it´s the teenager in me who still sees this as something ok and by that I choose to look beyond everything that is not working out in this film. It´s very straightforward, the bad guys are truly bad, and the good guy (Cobra) is truly good. The dramaturgy and the characters are flat as boards, then again when reading that they cut out everything that actually explained things and built the story no wonder it all becomes simple and stereotypical. The substance is just an eye for an eye and evil doing must be met on its own terms. George P. Cosmatos is rumoured to have been sidelined by Stallone and not much direction came out of him, then again with the ego Stallone had a that point maybe it became a mission impossible to direct "Cobra". However, I do assume it was him who managed to add the chilling depiction of the members of the "New Order" with for example some nice scary visuals. I reckon Stallone wanted to make his own "Dirty Harry", but came hardly close to the latter as "Cobra" is truly comic bookish. Funny then enough that Stallone mananged to hire Andrew Robinson for "Cobra" as he played The Scorpio Killer in "Dirty Harry" with such conviction that he received death threats after the film's release. The always stunning Brigitte Nielsen looks lost in her wig and to her defence with those lines she has in the film no wonder she´s lost. Brian Thompson manages to almost give you nightmares as 'The Night Slasher'. With those menacing looks you can´t go wrong as a bad guy in a film. I would love to see the original two hour cut of the film as I believe it might be something a bit better than what was released in 1986. Come on Warner Bros.!
Trivia: The knife used by the Night Slasher character was made for the film by knife designer Herman Schneider. Sylvester Stallone had asked Schneider to create a knife that audiences would never forget.
"You're the disease, and I'm the cure."
"Get back! I got a bomb here! I'll blow this whole place up!"
"Go ahead. I don't shop here."
"It's bad for your health, you know?"
Punk smoking cigarette: "What is, pinche?"
And I could go on. Sly wrote the screenplay based on a novel that was later filmed as the Cindy Crawford/Billy Baldwin vehicle "Fair Game." This is obviously the better of the two. It was directed by George P. Cosmatos, although some reports are that Stallone was really the director on the film. The same claim was also reported for the excellent western "Tombstone," that Cosmatos was more of an on-set producer and that star Kurt Russell was the film's real director. Cosmatos was also the credited director of "Rambo: First Blood Part II" so he has some pretty excellent muscular action flicks to his credits, but those are really his only films that I would say are really anything of note, which does make me think there may be some credence to the claims that he was merely on set to keep things running smoothly while Sly or Kurt shot their pictures. In any case, his name will probably be remembered for being part of these iconic films. There are some good supporting players in this film that include Art LaFleur (you'd totally recognize him if you don't know the name) and also Andrew Robinson, which I think was funny to cast him as the uptight police bureaucrat on Cobretti's case when his most famous role was as Scorpio, the crazed killer in "Dirty Harry." You also get o see David "Sledge Hammer!" Rasche as a fashion photographer, but most memorable of the supporting cast is Brian Thompson as the lead baddie from the cult, who has a big scary knife and looks perpetually sweaty. My favorite part of his performance are the close ups of his mouth when he spouts "PIG" with loads to saliva. I'll admit there are lot of plot holes and the pacing seems off at time, although I think both of those are a result of the film originally being Rated-X and had to be cut to get an R-rating. Overall, this is a film that I know isn't exactly "The French Connection," but it's a film that's always stuck in my memory, has a lot of funny one liners, many slick visuals, and is a film that I fell like I should be enjoying it ironically, but one that I always end up just straight up enjoying as quintessential 80s action.