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For Hicksflicks.com, Friday, March 8, 2019

EDITOR’S NOTE: When I think of ‘Cobra’ (which isn’t often) I remember an incident involving my review of the film. I saw the film before its debut, wrote it up and left the review for editors to run on its opening day while I took a two-week vacation. I gave the film two stars (on a four-star scale), which I considered generous, but when I returned to town and looked in the papers that had piled up I discovered that it was printed with FOUR stars! Readers must have thought I was not just generous but possibly nuts. We did run a correction two weeks late (no Internet in those days). The film is infamous as an example of over-editing, cut from a two-hour movie to an 87-minute feature for a number of reasons, including that it initially received an X rating for violence and the studio, of course, demanded an R. Anyway, The Shout! Factory has given the film a Blu-ray special-edition upgrade, including a number of new featurettes, as well as all the material from previous releases. Here’s my review, published on May 25, 1986.

Sylvester Stallone said in a recent interview that he likes to use dialogue sparingly and get down to the film’s action.

As far as I’m concerned, the less dialogue the better — especially after hearing some of the words spoken in “Cobra.”

But how about a lead character who is at least somewhat human, or a villain who has a reason for what he does? Stallone’s script never even tells us who the bad guys are, except that they belong to some bizarre fanatical cult that is never explained.

As the screenwriter and star of “Cobra,” he must take blame for the movie’s shameless ripoff elements — and there are several — along with its dreadful lack of character and story development.


Sylvester Stallone and Brigitte Nielsen, 'Cobra' (Spanish lobby card)

Clearly a blatant clone of Clint Eastwood’s “Dirty Harry” films, “Cobra” opens with an exciting, powerhouse scene in a grocery store that dupes the audience immediately into thinking this movie might have some potential.

No such luck. It isn’t long before “Cobra” sinks into mindless violence, silly music-video montage sequences, and a story that makes no sense whatsoever. (I won’t even mention the forced romantic subplot.)

“Cobra” is the nickname of Marion Cobretti (Stallone), a maverick plain-clothes cop (and we’re talking plain here; Don Johnson would cringe) on the Los Angeles police force working the “zombie squad.” When routine police investigative procedures fail, as they always do in films like this, “zombie” Cobretti is called in to blow somebody away — and destroy a good deal of personal property as well.

Stallone has tried to capture some of the black humor of “Dirty Harry” by having “Cobra” fire off one-liners after each confrontation, but he’s not content with ripping off only one genre.

In a hospital scene where fashion model Brigitte Nielsen (Mrs. Stallone in real life) is stalked in the sterile halls, “Cobra” takes on a horror motif that looks like it was lifted directly from “Halloween II.” There’s also a meat hook sequence that seems to be right out of “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.”


A dialogue exchange is directly from “Ghostbusters”: Cobretti is berated by his boss for withholding a police artist’s sketch of the killer, so he says, “You didn’t say the magic word.” His boss says, “What’s the magic word.” Cobretti coyly answers, “Please.”

Later during a high-speed car chase, Cobretti’s customized 1950 Mercury is revealed to be a car 007 might drive. (Is ‘Q’ on the L.A. force now?)

And when the inevitable climax finally comes, Cobretti carries an arsenal that Rambo would covet and kills so many bad guys that the body count looks like it might rival that of “First Blood Part II” or Arnold Schwarzenegger’s “Commando.”

“Cobra” does move fast, it is loaded with action and there are some very good stunt sequences. So it will probably make tons of money.

But the story, characters and style of this picture are just ridiculous. And though much of the gore is implied, this is a very violent film.

“Cobra” is rated R for violence and profanity, and there is a brief shot of a nude corpse.