Cobra – The Remedy For Psychopaths
As with most of our good/bad superstars, Sylvester Stallone has an impressive catalog of work we could pick and choose from, such as Over The Top, Lock Up, or Cliffhanger. Though without question, his turn as Marion Cobretti is easily our favorite.
Cobra is the LAPD’s idea of a cleaner, the main cog of the Zombie Squad. When someone asks what exactly the squad is, his candy-munching partner calmly states, “The Bottom Line.”
Like many of Sly’s characters, Cobra is a man of few grunts, preening his physique under a snug waffle henley and even tighter pair of jordache-inspired jeans. He completes the ensemble with mirrored aviators and a grubby, unlit match between his teeth. He could just as easily have passed for one of Al Pacino’s overnight pursuers in “Cruising.” From the neck up, his look is evocative of a Secret Service recruitment poster. From the chest down, he looks, as always, like he’s overcompensating. (Carl Weathers, his buddy from the first four Rocky movies, pulled off the jeans and long-sleeve henley with much more flair in “Action Jackson.”)
Stallone enhances his get-up with a custom, pearl-handed 9mm, showcasing a painted cobra on the grip. He also bops around in a stoked-out, modified 1950 Mercury, all gun-metal gray and heavy rims, with seatbelts out of a fighter jet. Taken as one package, the character is likely not what Lee Strasberg would have referred to as “subtle.”
Unlike the wardrobe tics, the actual narrative is simple, painfully so. Cobra is trying to annihilate a new fun-club of killers. Then he’s forced to shift to bodyguard status when real life wife-to-be number 2, Brigitte Nielsen, sees one of the killer’s faces. It all ends after some 80 minutes in a foundry town well beyond Los Angeles. This final location is plot essential because Cobra has to wipe out some 50 scumrods without proper backup. His amazing prowess with firepower wouldn’t pack the same alpha punch if he had the help of SWAT.
The bad folks in this one are cheesily heinous, a group that calls itself “The New World,” and holds heated séances in an abandoned factory. Its leader, a guy known as Night Slasher, is played by some dude named Brian Thompson, who has a face made for sparring.
He rallies his troops with a sweaty religious ritual, where his slasheroos raise double-headed axes above their heads and keep a beat by smacking them together in unison. Director George Cosmatos had a thing about cutting back and forth, between the ritual and actual killing.
The plot, if one can call it that, turns when Ingrid, played by Nielsen, drives past the Night Slasher, who’s just finished using his favorite toy to work his magic on a defenseless woman. (Where’s Maggie Q. when you need her?) This “toy,” is in reality a freakish knife, with a full curved blade, and an equally large handle that features ten spikes. It has actually been licensed and sold as the “Cobra Movie Knife.”
No joke. But we digress.
As we said, Ingrid sees the aftermath of the murder, gets a look at the Night Slasher’s saddle-bag puss, and speeds off. Of course, one of the New World assistants, a mole in the LAPD, gets Ingrid’s plate. And for some reason, Ingrid doesn’t report what she saw, instead continuing on her way to a photo shoot, being as…. seriously now… she’s a fashion model. Heavy thought went into her character profile.
A few minutes later, we are treated one of the silliest montages ever concocted. It mixes shots of Cobra and his partner out pounding the streets for answers, while Ingrid, who’s just witnessed a terrifying scene, poses for her lecherous photog against back-drop props of aluminum robots.
The photo shoot is eerily reminiscent of the Black Eyes Peas halftime show at the Superbowl, when they jumped around wearing illuminated pop art and shared the stage with television-headed dancers. Apparently, the cast of Tron was unavailable.
But again, we digress.
Throughout the Cobra montage, an unintentionally hilarious song, “Angel of the City,” is used to juxtapose the heated seriousness of the two endeavors, that being the cops searching for clues, and Ingrid doing the mambo with motionless androids.
This could be our favorite scene, as it is so earnestly inept. It’s also worth mentioning that the New World kids not only run her license plate, but are able to track Ingrid down a few hours later at the photo shoot. For sickos, they are amazingly competent when it comes to modern persuit and technology. Remember, this was only 1986.
These are only some of the lowlights, though the action and killing are constant, capped off by the Night Slasher’s own, grizzly demise, when Cobra hoists him onto a huge hook inside the foundry, and then watches as he’s dragged through a raging fire. Again, surprisingly subtle.
Cosmatos was probably attempting a grim and updated version of Clint Eastwood’s “Dirty Harry.” Unfortunately Cobra’s early pronouncement, “You’re a disease, And I’m the cure,” doesn’t come close to “Make my day,” or the Magnum 44 speech. Though it was a good try. More on point could be the Director’s casting of Harry alumni.
Reni Santoni mines familiar territory as Cobra’s suffering partner. And just like when he paired with Eastwood’s Harry Callahan, he ends up taking a bullet in this one as well, and once again is rendered useless for the final shootout.
Next up was Detective Monte, played by Andrew Robinson, who set the standard for off-center sociopaths with his performance as the Scorpio Killer in “Dirty Harry.” In this one, he goes the opposite way, as the superior who hates everything about Stallone’s Cobra. He pays, of course. In the final scene Stallone decks him, which in reality would have landed him on traffic patrol for a year, but in our good/bad universe, merely serves to enhance the legend.
So in the final rendering, we are left with one brutal cop named Marion, a model with no social conscience, scores of dead hillbilly gang members, and an inept hierarchy at the top of the LAPD.
Maybe this good/bad treasure is closer to reality than we originally thought.
Though after all these years, and countless viewings, our only question is… How the hell could he move so well in those ridiculous jeans?