in The Vault

Cobra (1986)

If there was ever a soulless, cash-in, it’s Cobra. “What’s the laziest possible vehicle we could give Sylvester Stallone?” At least that’s what I thought. Turns out Stallone wrote the screenplay himself. Apparently, he had the uncontrollable desire to tell a story about a police officer named Cobra who mercilessly guns down criminals on the streets of Los Angeles. Could there be a more generic setup for an action movie? Why would the police allow another officer to constantly kill human beings with no repercussions? Because crime is disease, and Cobra is the cure.

Marion “Cobra” Cobretti (that’s actually his name) is an officer who works for the LAPD in a division known as the “Zombie Squad”. What is the function of the Zombie Squad you ask? The Zombie Squad is who you call when a situation gets too tough and you just need a guy to go in there and kill someone. I mean, he drives a car with a license plate that says “AWESOME”. Bizarrely, the division appears to be made up of just Cobra and a guy named Gonzales (Reni Santoni). The division is put to the test when a group of Neo-Fascists led by a serial killer, the Night Slasher (Brian Thompson), unleash a crime wave across the city. How can Cobra end this violence? With more violence!

On his bloody path to righteousness, Cobra becomes involved with a German model named Ingrid (Brigitte Nielsen). Ingrid was a witness to one of the group’s murders and for no logical reason is put under the protection of the police force’s most irresponsible officer, Cobra. The rest of the movie is a series of bad 80s rock montages between Cobra and Ingrid and Cobra shooting down gang members with a machine gun. Since when do police officers have machine guns? Well, Cobra plays by his own rules.

The film’s prophet-like villain, the Night Slasher, is played by Washington-native/CWU Graduate (I went there) Brian Thompson. I’ve seen Thompson play a lot of thugs, but I think this is the first time he ever got to be the leader of the thugs. What confuses me about his character is his plan. The Slasher and his new order vow to eliminate the weak, leaving only the strongest to live and rule. What doesn’t make sense is that Cobra is clearly stronger than all of them, yet he becomes their primary target. He practically kills all of them in one scene where he stands in the back of a pickup truck gunning them down with a machine gun. Bah, what a weakling.

Cobra the character is essentially a parody of action stars. Sadly, this did not appear to be Stallone’s intention. Cobra acts like he’s the only person that understands the meaning of justice. I would argue that Cobra is a deeply, mentally disturbed person. Cobra constantly breaks the law to get his own way. What’s even worse is that Cobra never tries to reason with criminals, he never arrests them either, he always kills them. Does Cobra believe killing anyone that breaks the law will end violence? He proclaims to be the epitome of justice, but only his definition of justice. Cobra is a monster.

Cobra is a bad movie. Is it funny bad? Sometimes, for the ridiculousness of everything. The fact that Cobra uses a machine gun is a big plus. The romance part of the film doesn’t work (funny because Stallone and Nielsen were later married) but there’s still enough over-the-top machismo to make Cobra a mildly entertaining experience. Hard to believe the same man who wrote the Oscar-winning film Rocky wrote this, though we all now where his career has gone since. As a bonus, here’s one of the lighter scenes from Cobra.

P.S. Stallone originally wrote this script for the film Beverly Hills Cop. Can you imagine Eddie Murphy gunning down gang members with a machine gun? Sounds raw.