It happens to every one of us who has a Netflix account with too much time on their hands. You’re just browsing the streaming site, looking for something to watch and then you come across an old film that you forgotten. Something that did leave a mark, albeit slightly. You watched it once when you were younger, had a good time and then promptly went on with your life. The film did come across your mind but the moment is fleeting. You even remember that movie being a smash hit but no one seems to talk about it nowadays. But, now that you see that it’s on Netflix and you do have a couple of hours to kill, you decide to view that film again to see if it was actually any good.
Just recently, that film for me is Cobra, the 1986 action flick starring Sylvester Stallone. Now that I’ve seen Cobra again, I can sorta see why people don’t talk about it anymore. Not that it’s a bad movie; it’s just a dated movie.
In Cobra, Stallone plays Cobretti, a hard-nosed cop who is known to bend the law in order to get justice. With a serial killer known as the Night Slasher prowling the streets of Los Angeles, the LAPD brings in Cobretti along with his “zombie squad” partner Gonzales into the case. When a woman unknowingly witnesses one of the killings, Cobretti and Gonzales are charged with protecting her as the Night Slasher and his crew try to kill her before he’s identified.
As this was released in 1986, this was around the time most of Sylvester Stallone’s most prominent characters, Rock Balboa and John Rambo, were still hot stuff. I’m guessing, as this movie was written by Stallone himself, he wanted to mold another iconic character as well. Unfortunately, unlike Rambo and Rocky, I can see why the Cobra character didn’t catch on in hindsight. The description I gave of the character is right on the money and that’s kind of the problem. He’s kind of one dimensional in that regard. The only other two traits that I can think of is that his first name is Marion and he like bust Gonzales’ balls for eating unhealthy (even though there’s a scene where he eats a frozen slice of pizza for lunch).
That itself isn’t bad, especially for an action film in the ’80s. But, when compared to the underdog story of Rocky and the tortured soul of Rambo, this is rather shallow. Still, Stallone does play it to perfection, meaning that his performance is, at the very least adequate. I guess the same thing can be said for everyone involved, actually. Everyone is basically one dimensional but the acting is okay. The douchey by-the-book cop is douchey. The Night Slasher is a brutish serial killer with a very paper-thin motivation. The damsel is distress is always in distress. Strangely enough, the only one I felt had a real personality throughout Cobra’s 87-minute runtime is Cobretti’s partner, Gonzales. Well, not really a personality but rather he comes off as the one with the most personality, at least.
Like a lot of ’80s action flicks, Cobra’s plot is pretty inconsequential. The story is just an excuse for the director to show us, the viewers, some cool gunfights, fistfights and car chases. In other words, don’t expect to see a tightly woven plot with little easter eggs hinting at this big jaw dropping revelation about the human existence. This is not that kind of movie. Also, if you see some really large plot holes you can drive a dump truck through throughout, ignore them. This is, again, not that kind of movie. Don’t view this movie with today’s sensibilities as the plot holes will just eat you up. Just turn off your brain and just admire the action setpieces.
So, with that, everything does rely on the action. The big question is: does it deliver on where it matters? Well, yeah, for the most part. They’re genuinely fun to watch. Actually, it’s rather interesting to see today as all of the action was done with real people and items. Compare it to today’s movies, where at least some of the action is done using CGI or a green screen. There is a quality that just can’t be duplicated using computer graphics because you know all of the people involved in the stunt work were in real danger. It does make it not only look super real (because it is) but a little more breathtaking when you take into account how dangerous some of the stuff was.
Unfortunately, while the action setpieces are good, Cobra is missing another important staple of the more memorable action films of the period. That would be one-liners. All throughout the film, I was thinking it needed something and, when I got to the climax, I realized it was the lack of memorable lines. Yes, that seems like a nitpick but Cobra did need that little kick that one-liners give other ’80s action flicks.
The weird thing is that, at the start, it seemed like Cobra was going to be one of those movies that would at least try to deliver some quirky quotes that would stick in your head. During the first action scene in the supermarket, Cobretti sprinkles in some one-liners when talking to the hostage taker so I though it was going to be that kind of movie. He does get in a couple more throughout the rest of the movie but not enough. It’s kind of disappointing.
Maybe my expectations for Cobra were just wrong. I was expecting a rip roaring ’80s action movie so I did expect some quippy quips from the hero. But I do think is a missing piece as to why I didn’t enjoy this movie during my current viewing and maybe that’s why I don’t really remember Cobra today. It may sound like I’m bashing on Cobra a lot and I don’t mean to. Like I said, the action scenes are good. But it’s just missing that certain quality that made ’80s action movies so fun and memorable.
So, would I recommend Cobra as something you need to watch? Well, it’s kind of hard for me to give it a thumbs up because it doesn’t measure up to the more recognized movies of the time. The ’80s was the decade when movies like Predator, Commando, The Terminator, The Running Man, Lethal Weapon, Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior, Big Trouble in Little China, Escape from New York, Die Hard, Robocop, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Aliens, Beverly Hills Cop, Bloodsport, Kickboxer, Sudden Impact, Rocky and Rambo, just to name a few. And that’s just the ones off the top of my head right now. Heck, I didn’t even mention that some of them have become franchises of their own!
Maybe go watch Cobra after you’ve re-watched the ones above? Yeah, that seems fair.
Have you seen Cobra recently? What did you think of it? Let me know in the comment section below!