The reason I mention this is that Cobra, the film I'm reviewing, I actually resisted buying back in the day. If I could go back in time I would find the younger version of myself and slap him round the chops quite hard, why on earth resist buying more films? especially one where the tagline is 'Crime is a disease. Meet the cure.'
That I saw this wondrously over-the-top, enjoyable and very 80s serial killer/cop/action movie at all was down to the persistence of my lovely and, at the time, far more knowledgable wife. You see, believe it or not but before I got married the only Stallone film I had any time for was Copland. In fact my action intake in general was fairly mainstream and obvious, as I think I have mentioned elsewhere in the blog.
Starting with Rambo:First Blood and Rocky, the bona fide classics of his career, my wife introduced me to Stallone. To my mind these were basically B-Movies, or at least had B-Movie sensibilities, which I mean as a good thing. They had simple, bordering on cliche'd, plots (maybe they started the cliche) and cartoonish characters (not in a bad way) but they were inventively written, well directed, had an engaging story and great set pieces.
Yes there was a lot of 'All-American' simplified message preaching and male ego chest thumping in there but not in a 'country and western ballad' type way and it was kept subtle enough so that if you embraced that as a staple of the genre and the man, rather than Britishly and cynically scoffing at it, then his films were just really a good, fun and exciting watch.
From growing up on mainly comedies, horrors and blockbusters I found another genre in Stallone's movies that I loved. I think of them as second tier pictures for some reason, although I know he's a big star, the films don't seem to have that horrible studio sheen to them, they seem more independently spirited to me and this may have something to do with the fact that Stallone often co-writes and directs his films too.
This brings us to Cobra which finally, after my wife's near inhuman patience with silly old me was stretched to breaking point, we picked up, watched and I, of course, ended up absolutely adoring every ridiculous, over blown, cheesy and excessively violent moment of.
Yes the morals of the piece are highly dubious. The idea that the only way to stop violent crime is to hit them back and hit them hard, killing, maiming or blowing up as many criminals as possible, without any due process or trial, seems as ludicrous as the concept of good and evil but that's the point, that's why it's so enjoyable!
It doesn't feel the need to be hampered by whining on about societies grey areas or making some big political statement, it's an action flick and no matter if it is the simpler eighties or the over thinking noughties, in the end, the lone, gun toting, man of few words (save for a few clever one liners) is going to either get his man or kill his man anyway, so why hold up or halt the process with a lot of naval gazing wank?! Just wind up the good guy, arm him to the teeth and set him loose.
As hard and as ruthless as Jack Bauer is, the makers of 24 could've learnt a lot from Cobra, stop the waffle and get the job done! I am adult enough and intelligent enough to realise this is not how things should be done in the real world, ok?
The action starts with a city in the grip of a crimewave. A crazy wacked out hairy guy with a green army jacket and a shot gun is terrorising a supermarket, we are never really sure why but it is something to do with anarchy and a new world order. Then, within seconds, the scene becomes an enormous police siege. After really what is only a few more seconds the decision has been made that it is all hopeless and the only way to stop this from escalating is to send in The Cobra.
What or who are they talking about? you'd be right to ask. Let me explain.
You see, when there's a situation that all of the police and swat teams couldn't possibly handle (like a single crazy with a shotgun in a supermarket) they use a special division of the police force called the zombie squad, headed up by the laughably named Marion Cobretti and his seemingly 75 year old hispanic friend Gonzales.
Stallone plays Marion 'The Cobra' Cobretti (like that's even a real last name) and he is a one man army against crime with a mean and righteous attitude, plenty of ready quips, some mirror shades, a pearl handled revolver and probably a whole heap of unresolved mummy and daddy issues tied to his silly name and he dispenses justice the only way he knows how, loudly and with maximum destruction. He lives in a shitty neighbourhood but drives a classic car and the moment he whiffs a pretty damsel in distress he is on the case and he doesn't care how loudly he has to shout or which desk he has to bang to make sure he stays on it.
The plot continues and as soon as Cobra has dispensed with the man in the market by cleverly using his carefully honed and highly trained detective skills to shoot him with a gun, he then exits, dismisses the press and their liberal, wet whining about human rights and drives off in his big black muscle car.
We then find out that a serial killer has been bumping people off all over the city and the police can't find a pattern so they don't know what to do or where to look. This is because actually it's a whole gang of nutjobs in a rented van, who in their spare time like to stand in darkened warehouses in front of giant fans blowing orange hued smoke everywhere, banging axes together like some sort of German death metal music video and they are hell bent on bringing anarchy, violence and fear to these murky, neon-tinged streets.
One night these muscley mentals mess up and leave a witness alive in the form of fashion model and professional tall blonde person, Bridgette Nielson. Instead of lying low and realising that the police have absolutely no other evidence other than an eye witness and, if they were caught, the case would be an easy winner, they decide to come out of the shadows and spend all their time and resources tracking down and killing this one woman.
After lots of arguments with his superiors, Marion Cobretti is on the case and he will stop at nothing to protect this young bit of tail even if he has to shoot or blow up everything from LA to San Francisco to do it, no matter how many innocent lives he endangers in the process and that's about it. I, for one, don't need any more than that.
Be honest, if you are reading this and you haven't seen the film, you want to watch it right now, yes?
Re-watching this film recently, for maybe the third time, I was struck with just how good and gruesome the first half of the film is. The bad guys, for all their stupidity, are genuinely vicious bastards and there is a good element of slasher horror film during the opening act. If you're more a fan of horror than you are of 80s action it is definitely worth checking out.
After that though the film basically becomes an all out action fest with an excellent car chase (not unlike the one in Blazing Magnum, untilising the bridges of Venice Beach to great effect), some shoot outs and all climaxing in a big battle with Cobra & Gonzales versus every anarchistic thug that team evil could muster, at a road side motel. Gonzales, because he's ancient and useless, is injured in the first 10 seconds and it's up to Stallone to take out everyone else.
This preposterous brilliance inexplicably ends with Stallone duking it out, mano a mano, with the head baddie in yet another orange hued warehouse.
So, is it the best film Stallone has ever made? no and is it the best action movie ever made? no, of course not but it is one of my favourites because it was a film, not unlike how I described Army of Darkness and The Expendables in previous blogs, that I finished watching and just wished there more films out there like this. Films where the hero says, in response to a villain wailing about 'blowing this fucking supermarket sky high', with a completely straight face, "I don't care, I don't shop here"
Brilliant, a guilty pleasure yes but absolutely brilliant.
9 out of 10 big fat, tall, all-American, hamburgers with all the trimmings
Points from The Wife - 10 out of 10