If you love Stallone’s bonafide action films, then Cobra is absolutely one of his signature outings. It also has an interesting origin. It originally started out when Stallone was cast as the lead in Beverly Hills Cop, but instead of the action comedy we got with Eddie Murphy, Sly did rewrites to essentially change Axel Foley to Marion Cobretti. When he and Paramount couldn’t agree on this, they parted ways, and Cobra was born. This is also an adaptation of the novel Fair Game by Paula Gosling, which was the basis for a William Baldwin film in 1995 of the same name. I’ve never seen that film, but this one, it is a really damn good one.
Lt. Marion Cobretti (Sylvester Stallone) is a one-man assault force whose laser-mount submachine gun and pearl handled Colt 9mm spit pure crime-stopping venom. Cobretti finds himself pitted against a merciless serial killer called the Night Slasher (Brian Thompson). The trail leads to not one murderer but to an army of psychos bent on slashing their way to a “New Order”- and killing the inadvertent witness Ingrid (Brigitte Nielsen) to their latest blood spree. Fortunately, Cobra is her protector intent on bringing down these brutal maniacs.
Very notably, Cobra was helmed by director George P. Cosmatos who also did Rambo: First Blood, Part II and the absolutely amazing Tombstone. Under his skills, this is an excellent action movie! Primarily, the quality of the cinematography and editing is amazingly superb. I see a lot of good quality films of this sort on the filmographies of the editors and cinematographer that prove to me that this was not a one-off shining moment. This film does have a gritty style with a strong sense of mood and atmosphere for the urban environment. I took special note of just how well visualized this film was, which would have turned out very generic in much lesser hands. With Cosmatos, Cobra has real bite and punch. He also executes the high tension and suspense sequences with remarkable ability. The parking garage scene where the Night Slasher is stalking Ingrid is a gorgeous example of this.
The Cobretti character is surprisingly understated in most cases. Sure, when he’s in the heat of action, he’s bad ass and intense, but outside of that, Stallone plays it cool. He’s calm and collected handling urgent scenarios with confidence and sharp action. Stallone also brings his usual heart and charm, adding a little charisma and levity to Cobra, but overall, he’s a hard edged cop that’s ready to kick ass at a moment’s notice. The entire look of Cobra with the five o’clock shadow, black overcoat, mirror aviator glasses, and the wicked cool 9mm just certifies the character as awesome. Its not a character that jumps off the screen, but with that great look and a couple of cool one-liners, Marion Cobretti drives forward an entertaining film.
Brigitte Nielsen might be regarded very poorly today, but early in her career, she was particularly good. Her performance as Ingrid is soft and gentle in the most part, but she also handles the terrified moments in the film exceptionally well. Not surprisingly, she and Stallone have real good chemistry. They would later marry and divorce within a few years. Here, you can see their real life affectionate for one another shine through on the screen making for a heartfelt connection that adds more depth to both characters.
The use of Brian Thompson as the Night Slasher, our main villain, is just right. I honestly have never felt he was a particularly good actor outside of his powerful physical presence. However, the script and Cosmatos wisely utilize his imposing figure and psychotic killer look instead. He has extremely little dialogue until the climax where he monologs his creed about his New Order, and he does an exceptional job with this dialogue letting his deep voice carry its weight.
And I love Andrew Robinson in everything I’ve seen him in. He beautifully plays the smarmy Detective Monte who likes to throw his weight around, and dig his ego into Cobretti like a thorn in your side. You can’t wait to see this guy get what’s coming to him by the end.
By no doubt, there is a lot of excellent action here. Stallone gets plenty of chances to get physical with some hard edged fight scenes. Then, there’s an adrenalin pumping car chase with some great car stunts and rapid gunfire. Add in some tense, scary moments of Ingrid fighting for her life from the Night Slasher, and you’ve got a very intense, exciting action movie from a director who just knew how to film it with masterful vision. The editing on these action sequences is so perfectly tight. This is especially exemplified in the amazingly dynamic shootout and chase sequences that kick start the climax. The rhythm, pacing, and impressive choice of angles are just excellence on display. Cosmatos was a brilliant action sequence visionary, and everything in that climax is bad ass and awesome. It starts out hard and fast, and then, gets tough and brutal inside the industrial factory. The final confrontation between Cobra and the Night Slasher is really damn good. This is a great, tense, climactic moment that Stallone and Thompson play dead-on-the-mark in this fiery, industrial setting aided by the excellent cinematography and Cosmatos’ razor sharp direction. It’s wicked cool.
Further showcasing that this is an 80’s movie is the rock soundtrack. It starts with a sweet montage sequence fueled by “Angel of the City” by Robert Tepper, who also contributed “No Easy Way Out” for Rocky IV. We then get a couple of other tracks that are catchy, upbeat, and energizing to the vibe of the movie. This helps keep the film lively and little more memorable. The actual score by Sylvester Levay here serves its purpose right fine, but doesn’t standout as anything exceptional.
Cobra is a fun, entertaining, exciting film packed with action. It has a moody, serious tone with the door comfortably open for levity, but it never gets especially cheesy. This is a really good action movie that will satisfy even today. The standard fare script by Stallone is entirely elevated by George Cosmatos’ stylish directing talents. Cobretti himself is not all that fascinating as it’s the attitude and look that sets him apart including the cobra emblem Colt 9mm and the custom 1950 Mercury. It’s not a character that puts a challenge on Stallone, but he likely enjoyed the experience. I certainly would have enjoyed seeing a sequel, but this was also a time where Sylvester Stallone’s ego started swelling a lot. So, I can imagine there could have been some behind the scenes conflicts. Regardless, check out Cobra! It’s a solid piece of action cinema!