“This is where the law stops and I start – sucker!”-Lt Marion “Cobra” Cobretti
With all of the drama in the past year between law enforcement and citizens, it is safe to say that media’s devilish hand is hard at work escalating the scrutiny towards our boys in blue. Unfortunately, there are some dirty cops out there, there always has and there always will be. A majority of police officers are good souls who actually try to make a difference in their community. This week is National Police Week, and we should show appreciation towards those honest cops who show integrity while upholding the law or have paid the ultimate price by dying in the line of duty. Then there are some cops who work outside the system disregarding police protocol in hopes of eliminating dangerous threats in the name of justice. Today’s feature focuses on individual that lives by his own code in none other than the underrated, Cobra (1986).
Cobra opens with a hood on a motorcycle riding the streets of Los Angeles to stop at a local supermarket for some early morning shopping days before Christmas. Angered probably due to the store not honoring his double coupons, the biker pulls a gun, wasting some shoppers (clean up in Aisle 3) before causing a hostage situation. The perp is a foot soldier of the “New Order” gang, that when these weirdoes are not chanting while banging axes together in some dank boiler room, get their kicks by slaughtering innocent citizens all in the name of their twisted understanding of Darwinism. The local cops are at a standstill in the negotiations with the “Mad Grocer,” and time is a critical factor for the safety of all those involved. Reluctant to do so, the out of touch on scene commander, Detective Monte, Andrew Robinson of Dirty Harry (1971), gives the order to, “Call the Cobra.”
Minutes later, a grey, tough looking 1950 Mercury speeds into the parking lot before slamming to a screeching halt. Exiting the cool unmarked police cruiser, with his signature matchstick in mouth, is Marion “Cobra” Cobretti, Sylvester Stallone of Escape Plan (2013), a member of an elite division known as the “Zombie Squad,” who are experts at cuffing & stuffing or tagging & bagging psycho criminals.
Cobretti enters the store (still wearing his sunglasses and a pair of 70s Robert Plant tight jeans), surveys the scene with much calculation utilizing unorthodox tactics that every cop should be taught such as taking a sip of a beer before chucking it as a tool to pinpoint a firing gunman. Cobretti then decides to use the public address system (Attention All Shoppers) in the meat room, calling out the criminal, “Hey dirt bag, you’re a lousy shot. I don’t like lousy shots…now I think it’s time to waste you!” What great verbal judo to deescalate the situation.
Before you know it, Cobretti busts in through a side door locating the hostages and scumbag, who is now holding a crude, homemade bomb threatening our hero that he is going to, “blow this place up.” Cobretti calmly retorts, “Go ahead. I don’t shop here,” before throwing a knife at the sleazy criminal (reminds me of Hitchhiker of Texas Chainsaw Massacre, but slimier) before putting five rounds into his body rendering him lifeless as he lands on a cold case of frozen bags of succotash.
Before you know it, the morning supermarket hostage crisis is only one of a string of recent murders in the City of Angels masterminded by the Night Slasher of “New Order.” Remember, this is an underground supremacist group and not the 80’s band birthed by the demise of Joy Division or the 90’s wrestling stable headed by Hollywood Hulk Hogan…it is missing the word–World–BRUTHA! One of the murders is witnessed by young model, Ingrid, Brigitte Nielsen of Red Sonja (1985), and Stallone’s real life crazy love interest at the time of production. Ingrid speeds off before they can make her mincemeat, but it doesn’t take long before the creepy Night Slasher, Brian Thompson of Flight of the Living Dead (2007) and Nancy Stalk, Lee Garlington of One Hour Photo (2001), terrorize our giant model from Denmark. Cobretti with the aid of his wise cracking, junk food eating partner Gonzales, Reni Santoni of Dirty Harry), move Ingrid to witness protection upstate, before the “New Order” travels to the secret locale, tipped off by an inside source, to finish off Cobretti and crew once and for all.
Cobra is an action crime drama directed by the sometimes incompetent George P. Cosmatos of Leviathan (1989), screenplay by Stallone, loosely based from the 1974 award winning novel, Fair Game, by Paula Gosling. Coming off the success of Rocky IV (1985), Rambo: First Blood Part II (1985), minus the horrid Rhinestone (1983), Cobra helped solidify Stallone as a bona fide action star with enough clout to write most of his films since his initial success as a scribe with Rocky (1976). Cobra was recut by Warner Brothers before its release, severely chopping a massive chunk out of the story and over an hour of runtime that was left on the studio floors after initially receiving an “X” rating from the MPAA due to gore and violence. It didn’t seem to matter to fans, Cobra was a huge box office success reaching No. 1, though it was torn to shreds by critics, and brought in over $160 mil worldwide upon its release. Stallone could probably produce videos of his punchy diction teaching Rosetta Stone and it would still sell successfully.
In the 80s, Stallone really established his brand, and marketed himself very well as did his friendly rival, Arnold Schwarzenegger. Stallone was apparently believing his own hype at the time, as the supporting cast and daily extras on the set of Cobra, were forbidden to talk to him, he was very egocentric towards the crew, and his divaesque antics slowed up the production. This comes as no surprise that after our lovable Philly boy found fame and fortune, one of his maids that was dismissed from her duties from his west coast villa, claimed that her contract highlighted the bizarre stipulation that at no time could she make direct eye contact with Mr. Stallone. These words of Stallone’s pretentious nature, makes me kind wish Ivan Drago “did break him” and not Apollo. What a letdown Rocky, what a letdown.
Though he may have been a jabroni at this time, Stallone’s cool performance in my opinion, is one of his more enjoyable as Cobra is the 80’s incarnation of Bullitt (1968) meets Dirty Harry. Originally planned for the lead role of Beverly Hills Cop (1984), Stallone with pen in hand, rewrote the majority of that script which resulted in creative differences with the studios after removed all of the comedy. Stallone left, to focus his attention on what would be Cobra, and Eddie Murphy of Coming to America (1989), took the lead…before he began flushing the toilet on his career within the coming decades with such dismals features as The Nutty Professor (1996), Doctor Doolittle (1998), The Adventures of Pluto Nash (2002), and Norbit (2007).
Cosmatos did a good job directing Cobra, I guess, though it has been rumored that he was an unorganized, aloof filmmaker at times, and Stallone may have directed some scenes, much like Kurt Russell did when Cosmatos failed to perform his duties helming Tombstone (1993). Cobra does have its flaws, mainly in the character development department as Cobretti does come across hollow at times, though the blame should be blamed on the studios trimming so much from the original film. If you are a fan of special features, then check out the commentary; it is by far, one of the most God awful spiels (so bad its good) provided by a bored and at times somewhat senile sounding Cosmatos.
Cobra is full of plenty of 80s Alpha male one-liners, shoot ‘em up action, and a pretty enjoyable car chase which is an updated nod to the memorable pursuit in Bullitt, but nowhere as close to V-8 intensity of the fuel injected scenes in The French Connection (1971) and The Seven-Ups (1973). Overall, Cobra is absolutely fun, cool, laughably bad at times, and a must see. It has become a late night guilty pleasure for some, this writer included.
So do yourself a favor and check out Cobra, and if you have a friend or family member who is a cop, tell them thanks. It’s not an easy job, and for those who took the oath to protect and serve us, I thank you. For you dirty cops out there, your time will come as you are no better than the guilty subjects you incarcerate. As Cobra wisely stated to a criminal, “You’re the disease, and I’m the cure.”
- Rick Baldwin is a writer, filmmaker, film/music historian, and can be found on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/rick.baldwin.568
- Twitter Rick Baldwin@rickbaldwin79 and firstname.lastname@example.org