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The 100




Cobra
(1986)
Reviewed by Chris Edwards
Rating: 5 Beans

ylvester Stallone deserves a place in the bad movie hall of fame. Can you think of a contemporary actor, making big-budget studio films, who's been in more awful movies? He seems to have an instinct for selecting projects destined to drive audiences away and delight bad novie lovers. Okay, he slips up and makes a decent movie sometimes, but he always manages to find ways to hinder himself again.

Witness "Cobra." "Cobra" came along after two Stallone hits, "Rambo" and "Rocky IV." He was, at the time, the highest paid movie star in the business. After some rocky (no pun intended) years, he'd staged a major comeback by falling back on established characters. His popularity was at its peak, and his next movie was a guaranteed hit.

Not quite. Once again, Stallone found a way to put the brakes on. He created for himself a starring vehicle meant to establish a new screen identity, that of the maverick cop called "the Cobra."

Now, every maverick cop movie owes something to the original, 1971's "Dirty Harry." "Lethal Weapon" borrows quite a bit from the Eastwood classic, to name just one. But Stallone didn't want to be inspired by Dirty Harry. He wanted to BE Dirty Harry. Consider-

*"Cobra" begins with a mumbled monologue about crime, while we see images of Stallone's gun. "Magnum Force," made over a decade earlier, begins with a shot of Dirty Harry's .44 Magnum while Clint intones the "Do you feel lucky?" speech.

*Both heroes have trademark weapons-Harry has the .44 Magnum, while Cobra has a Colt .45 with a cobra on the ivory grips (yes, this does look a little silly).

*Both men have tough nicknames, and both have a way with a one-liner when about to waste a punk.

*Not convinced? Reni Santoni co-stars in "Cobra," playing Cobra's partner. Santoni was also in "Dirty Harry." He played Harry's partner. He even gets wounded in both films. Also in the "Cobra" cast is Andy Robinson, the guy who played Scorpio in, yes, "Dirty Harry." All that's missing is Clint himself, but I guess Stallone gets that part.

The problem is, Stallone is no Clint Eastwood (you probably knew this). His Cobra character dresses like Bruce Springsteen, and sports a matchstick from the corner of his mouth. That's his main character trait. He chews a matchstick. This guy may be the least likable hero ever put to film. He's supposed to exude tough and cool, like a heavily-armed Fonzie. Instead, he comes across as a violent thug driven only by his desire to blow away crimnials. Better watch "Dirty Harry" a few more times, Sly. You missed the point.

Stallone wrote "Cobra," and it's quite a story. Seems a band of psycho killers who like to chant and wave axes, are terrorizing the populace. Tall, dictionally-challenged fashion model Ingrid Knudsen (Brigitte Nielsen who at the time was married yadda yadda, you've heard it before) is an unwitting witness to a psycho killing. It's now up to Cobra to protect her from the psychos.

Pretty good story, huh? It's enough to propel a couple of set-pieces-a car chase that rips of "Bullit," and the lengthy climax, in which Stallone arms up with a Finnish Jati machine pistol and some grenades, and wipes out wave upon wave of biker thugs. It actually resembles a video game, as Stallone swivels from side to side, directing his fire.

"Cobra" is a short movie, under 90 minutes. This is because Stallone wanted it to be short enough to show three times a night at theatres, so the huge throngs could all get in. I don't know of it showing three times a night anywhere. But it does make for a very thin script.

One last thought. This movie actually opens with the well-worn grocery store hostage scenario. And it actually ends with the ancient "You can't kill me. I surrender. Take me in," bit. In other words, we didn't need "The Last Action Hero" to parody action movies for us. Stallone had alrady done it with "Cobra." And he didn't even try.

I was gonna give this one seven beans. But for being a loose cannon and giving the department a bad name, I'm busting it down to five.






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