The Video Vacuum (thevideovacuum) wrote,
The Video Vacuum
thevideovacuum

THE GREATEST MOVIES IN THE HISTORY OF THE HUMAN RACE: COBRA (1986) ****

In 1986 when everyone was groovin’ to the taste of New Coke, Sylvester Stallone was blowing away the scum of the earth and spouting cheesy dialogue and everything was right with the world.  Sly had written a screenplay for Paramount called Beverly Hills Cop, but couldn’t come to an agreement with the studio.  They kept the title and made it into an Eddie Murphy vehicle (making him a star).  Sly kept his script and rechristened it Cobra.  

What Sly has given us is nothing short of a miracle.  I remember seeing the poster at the tender age of seven:  Sly holding a big gun, chewing on a matchstick and sporting some serious shades.  Above him the catchphrase to end all catchphrases:  Crime is the disease.  Meet the cure.  “Hell yeah!” my seven year old brain marveled.  “I know exactly what I’m doing this Memorial Day weekend!”  

Cobra is basically your standard issue cookie cutter Dirty Harry rip-off.  A reckless cop throws out all the rules and endangers countless of innocent civilians while blowing away bad guys and uttering hilarious one liners.  Like all of Sly’s work in the 80’s (I’m counting Staying Alive here too) it’s more than just a sum of it’s parts.  It exists in it’s own world, with all it’s own rules and provides endless viewing enjoyment.  It’s one of the most ridiculous action movies of the 80’s (right up there with Death Wish 3 and The Exterminator) and goddammit if it doesn’t make one shed a tear for the Reganomics fueled action movie of yesteryear.  

The pre-title sequence has Cobra (Stallone) muttering some crime statistics while pointing a gun at the audience.  After he pulls the trigger the movie begins.  The opening scene is the greatest action set piece set in a grocery store ever.  A bad dude (How do we know he’s bad?  He parks in a handicapped spot!) wanders in and starts blowing away fruits, sundries and paper towel displays until the cops show up.  Their solution:  Send in Cobra!  Meanwhile, the psycho blows a hole thorough some poor schmo and goes barreling through the store’s Christmas display.  Cobra arrives shortly thereafter to lay the smack down.  There has never been more product placement in one scene as the scene where Cobra goes into the store to confront the bad guy.  Pepsi, Coors, Bartles and James, you name it are all proudly on display.  Cobra slinks into the store and immediately grabs a Coors.  He takes a sip then throws it to distract the killer and sneaks into the frozen food aisle (which looks like an outtake from The Fog).  Meanwhile the killer keeps babbling on about “the way of the new world” and Cobra gets on the PA system and starts soliloquizing like fucking Hamlet.  “Hey dirt bag.  You’re a lousy shot.  I don’t like lousy shots.  You wasted the kid for nothing.  Now I think it’s time to waste you.”  Cobra gets the drop on him and when the killer announces he has a bomb and will blow the place up Cobra utters one of the greatest lines of dialogue since Al Jolson spoke for the first time on film:  “Go ahead, I don’t shop here!”  When the killer tells him he wants to talk to the newscasters, Cobra retorts, “I don’t deal with psychos, I put them away!”  Finally the psycho declares himself “a hero of the new world” and Cobra retorts with the immortal line:  “You’re the disease and I’m the cure!” and promptly blows the fucker away, sending him over the frozen fish display.  

In the wake of that amazing scene, Stallone takes a second to add some social commentary.  When exiting the store, a newsman asks Cobra about the killer’s rights, Cobra shows him the still warm victim’s body and says, “Tell that to his family!”  While Cobra drives home in his custom ’50 Mercury, the 80’s soundtrack kicks in:  “Workin’ all day/Tryin’ to make a livin’!”  Obviously the 80’s version of a Greek chorus.  Cobra is unable to parallel park because some Latino gang banger is double parked.  Cobra bumps his car to squeeze into the space and when the wannabe gangster steps up to him, Cobra says “You know it’s bad for your health.”  He replies, “What is?”  “Me!” and rips the dude’s shirt.  Clearly Cobra is not the kind of cop who writes tickets.  

We then get a peek into Cobra’s bachelor life.  He puts a newspaper into a neighbor’s grill before heading into his surprisingly clean apartment.  He relaxes in front of the TV by cleaning his gun and eating a pizza.  His method of doing so is ingenious.  He cuts his cold pizza by using scissors.  Brilliant.  The news comes on and begins give us exposition about The Night Slasher, a brutal serial killer.  When the report comes on, Cobra finally removes his sunglasses.  That’s right folks; we don’t get to see Sly’s pupils until fifteen minutes into the picture.  (Sly pulled a similar stunt in Judge Dredd.)  

Then we get to see the killer in action.  Actually it’s several killers, all wearing panty hose masks, who murder a woman.  The cops are clueless, and when Cobra suggests there may be more than one killer, his sniveling superior Monte (Child’s Play 3’s Andrew Robinson) dismisses his theory.  We learn that Cobra is on “The Zombie Squad” and takes cases no one else wants. We also get to hear him wax philosophical: “If we have to play by these bullshit rules and the killer doesn’t, we’re gonna lose!”  

Enter the model, Ingrid (Bridgette Neilsen, Hepburn to Sly’s Tracy, except she’s not very good.) who witnesses a Night Slasher murder.  She does a photo shoot with some robots in a typically 80’s montage (after Rocky IV, robots and Neilsen were a given in a Stallone picture).  The Slashers hunt her down but only manage to kill her photographer (Sledgehammer’s David Rasche), so Cobra takes her into protective custody.  Cobra heads home and the gangbanger has now learned his lesson and politely moves his car when Cobra parks.  Cobra commends him for his neighborliness “You’re a good citizen.”  Meanwhile, the leader of the Night Slashers (Mortal Kombat:  Annihilation’s Brian Thompson) sneaks into the hospital where Ingrid is to kill her.  He kills a janitor and steals his glasses (Great disguise!) while other Slashers attack Cobra at home where a huge neon Pepsi sign hangs on his patio.  (Product placement to the max baby!)  He blows away the punks and hightails it back to the hospital to save Ingrid, but she’s resourceful and wards off the killer by pulling the fire alarm.  

Back at the police station Cobra is chewed out for withholding a sketch of the suspect by Monte.  “You forgot to say the magic word… please.”  Cobra and his partner Gonzales (Seinfeld’s Reni Santoni) escort Ingrid to a safe house along with a female cop who unbeknownst to Cobra is actually a Night Slasher.  En route, the Slashers try to run them off the road and an excellent all out demolition derby ensues involving 180’s, ramp jumping, tollbooth smashing, a wall of fire, nitro boosters, and the incredible scene in which Cobra drives his car through a boat!  After all that destruction of private property, his superiors have Cobra move Ingrid out of town.  They make a pit stop at a convenience store that has a junk dealer.  Cobra picks up a bobble head figure and says, “Hot item!”  Gonzales drinks a Coke (Does Pepsi know about this?) and tells Ingrid Cobra’s real name:  Marion.  “I always wanted a tougher name.  Like Alice.”  They leave the junk dealer and Cobra says “No sale!”  They stop off for a burger and Cobra asks Ingrid, “You got a life preserver?  Your fries are drowning in ketchup!”  They share tepid glances and idle chatter so you know they’re falling in love.  That night Cobra takes her to the Promised Land and in the morning she asks him why he looks so mad and he responds, “I always look this way before breakfast!”  

When the bitch cop rats Cobra out to her buddies, The Night Slashers, Cobra starts blowing away motherfuckers on motorcycles left and right.  He follows them to their hideout, a steel mill (Any good action movie ends in a steel mill.  Just look at Robocop and Terminator 2.) and Cobra blows up, incinerates (“You have the right to remain silent!”) and good old fashion shoots Night Stalkers like they’re going out of style, until only the leader is left.  He says, “Let’s bleed pig!” and starts mouthing off about the New Order.  “We’re the future!”  Cobra rebuffs, “No you’re history… this is where the law stops and I start!”  They go mano y mano and Cobra impales him on a giant hook!  After all is said and done, Monte wants Cobra to know there are no “hard feelings” and tries to shake his hand but Cobra slugs him.  Cobra and Ingrid then hop on his motorcycle and ride off into the sunset.  

In short, 86 minutes of pure testosterone.  Cobra is definitely one of Sly’s best non-Rocky or Rambo movies and deserves the same kind of respect those films enjoy.  

The only problem I got with it is that we never know what The Night Slashers stand to gain by randomly slaughtering innocent people, other than “being predators” and “killing the weak”.  (I guess Cobra doesn’t call them psychos for nothing.)  Director George P. Cosmatos had done Rambo with Sly the previous year and Nielsen, Sly’s future ex-wife also starred in Rocky IV with him.  Robinson was also in the similarly themed Dirty Harry, but as the psycho.  The novel this was based on, Fair Game (by Paula Gosling) was later made into the movie of the same name that began and ended Cindy Crawford’s career.

Tags: .the greatest movies in..., action, c, cannon, stallone
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