Cobra (1986) — They don’t make action like this anymore

“You’re the disease. I’m the cure.”

Justin’s rating: Brought to you by Pepsi.

Justin’s review: I always thought it’d be fun to be a Movie Cop. They get to dress however they like, ride around in unauthorized vehicles, fly off the handle at their superiors with no repercussions, and field test a small army’s worth of weapons. They don’t have to do so much paperwork, I’ve noticed. And they get to star in their own movies, such as Sylvester Stallone’s 1986 magnum opus, Cobra.

A member of the LAPD’s “zombie squad,” whatever that is, Cobra is brought in to be Judge Dredd when a situation demands for a one-man solution. You know he’s cool, because he wears sunglasses inside, chews on a match (?), drinks beer on his way to kill the bad guy, and spits out pithy little quotes. He’s basically every ’80s action hero right at the zenith of that decade’s love affair with them.

Everyone in Los Angeles is freaking out over a serial killer known as the “Night Slasher,” but what they don’t know is that the killer is killers, plural. It’s a whole gang of axe-wielding psychos who call themselves the New World, and they need a bit of pruning. Sure, the police department could coordinate with the feds and organize an interdepartmental task force, but the much better solution is to let Cobra off his leash and give him a day pass from following the law. It certainly helps that the gang gets obsessed with killing a model named Ingrid, which gives Cobra the perfect bait to draw them all out.

Cobra’s origin actually came from, believe it or not, Beverly Hills Cop. Stallone was originally set to star in that movie, but he wanted to rewrite it to make it more serious, which didn’t fit the comedic tone the filmmakers wanted. So he dropped out, shaped his hyper-violent cop story into Cobra, and here we are. The film bombed hard when it first came out, but over time, audiences came to love the trope-ridden film and its over-the-top police action. It was so over-the-top, in fact, that the MPAA demanded cuts be made to keep it from being rated “X.”

This was one of the last major action movies from the ’80s that I hadn’t seen until recently, so this was one of those “correcting a long-neglected oversight” situations. And while I really expected some sort of brain-dead action-flick, I discovered that Cobra held my attention from start to finish. Stallone is just the right amount of cocky, capable, and likable, perhaps not quite as mouthy as John McClane but easily as much of an unexpected handful for a small army of bad guys. You’d be surprised how many amazing moments are packed into this, from mushroom cloud explosions to Cobra hitting his car’s turbo boost (of course he has a turbo boost).

This movie does a great job in selling the obsessive dedication that the bad guys have toward killing at all costs, and at times, Cobra turns into tense serial killer territory. But what’s really bizarre as a viewer is how obtuse and needlessly confrontational Cobra’s police department is toward him. They jump down his throat for anything, never believe him, and never give him the backup he needs. But hey, when you’re a one-man slaughterhouse, you don’t really need any backup.

So yeah, take a big bite of this hunk of red meat filmmaking and wash it down with a tall glass of testosterone. It’ll be good for ya.

One comment

  1. You’re the disease, I”m the cure. fricking brilliant. The Los Angeles of 1986 was a torrid, dark and dangerous place, the writers would have been exposed to real brutality on the streets. I think the American “clean up” of the big cities during the 90s was why Hollywood stopped making action films like they did. Shame.

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