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Thursday, 23 February 2017

Retro Review: Cobra (1986)

Cast: Sylvester Stallone, Brigette Nielsen, Brian Thompson, Reni Santoni
Genre: Action
Worldwide Box Office Gross: over $160 million

Plot:  A tough on crime street cop must protect a female witness from a murderous cult who have far-reaching plans 

'This Cobra Is Not So Poisonous' 

Cobra was written by Sylvester Stallone and was based on the book, 'Fair Game', which was later remade as a film with William Baldwin and Cindy Crawford in 1995 - and that film bombed spectacularly. 

There are a lot of things wrong with Cobra; it's a generic yet corny action film, with cringing 80s pop music playing and shots of Brigette Nielsen striking various poses as if she is modelling for Playboy. She plays a damsel in distress, which in hindsight, is a stark contrast to her being a peroxide antagonist in Beverly Hills Cop II, but she relies on her sensuality more than actual acting ability to carry the film through. Her performance was the worst although, with the script, she had uttered so few lines as her character, who merely existed to look like a dumb blonde and get rescued by Sly. Generally, the acting is poor, the performances are woeful. The villain known as the Night Slasher looks good at being menacing, and nothing else to it; plus, his lines to Cobretti towards the end were awful.  

When an action film contains a scene where the main hero is cutting a slice of pizza with a pair of scissors (!), one would be in for a real turkey. Which Cobra undoubtedly is.

The film fails to generate genuine suspense, entertainment and believability within the story and the characters themselves. But for a few action scenes, the rest of the film is plain boredom and apparently, this could've been the type of action movie Beverly Hills Cop had turned out, with Stallone in place of Eddie Murphy. When Stallone quit the film, all the ideas he had for it, were in Cobra. His character Cobretti was his version of Axel Foley and how he'd play it in Beverly Hills Cop

Even for a film, it takes itself far too seriously. Beverly Hills Cop, Lethal Weapon had humour and of the characters being self-aware of the things they say and do. Not here, though. Ray-Ban wearing Stallone is as stoic as he is here, he doesn't show much emotion or be it many different emotions and expressions. He may have a cool look as Cobretti, but characterisation-wise, the film doesn't touch upon this aspect, whatsoever. He's blander than Rambo and Rocky and lacks any sort of personality to Sly Stallone's other bad ass character, Ray Tango of Tango & Cash (and probably my favourite other action role of his). And again, Stallone mumbles throughout most of his lines, I couldn't make out on some of the things he was saying. The dialogue, in general, is so minimal as the camera focuses more on the characters' looks, the kills aren't as epic as in Rambo, Commando with Arnie and its attempts at humour are futile. The villains are more like biker gang rejects from Mad Max. Bryan Thompson has the face of a raging psycho who is about to 'lose the plot' at any minute. 

Some of the car chases are anything but spectacular, deft-defying and jaw-dropping and the shoehorned romance between Stallone and Nielson is nothing. No genuine sparks generated, nor sexual feelings or attraction. They don't even have sex or take their clothes off for each other in this so-called R-rated flick. 

This film is mostly Stallone killing lots of bad guys and the bad guys killing random people. That is all. 

Final Verdict

Pauline Kael who reviewed this film in 2001 said that Cobra is trash masquerading as art; well, art, this ain't.... trash, however? Well, that's harsh. It's not the word I'd use for it but one on similar lines to that one. But for some of the action sequences, Cobra is a plain, bore of an action film that succeeds with a hollow narrative and equally hollow and bad performances, along with incessant gunfire scenes and a film that could have been mistaken as a parody on the action genre. 

By stripping away everything else but the action (which isn't entirely great in itself), explosions, chases, fights, you're left with practically nothing to show for it; Cobra is underwhelming as it is bland and as simple as its premise and execution. There are far better action films, especially throughout the 1980s and 1990s, that went way & beyond better than with this offering. As well as being entertaining to boot. 

But for the hard-looking pose of Stallone wielding a gun on the poster and of him cutting a slice of pizza with scissors, as a film, Cobra's bite isn't as venomous and poisonous as it sounds. 


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