Like Sylvester Stallone’s Rocky and Rambo, the hero of Cobra is another original: Lt. Marion Cobretti, a one-man assault force whose laser-mount submachine gun and pearl-handled Colt .45 spit pure crimestopping venom. Director George P. Cosmatos (Rambo: First Blood Part II, Tombstone) rejoins Stallone for this thriller pitting Cobretti against a merciless serial killer. 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 (Brigitte Nielsen) to their latest blood spree. Fortunately, Cobra is her protector. And full-throttle screen excitement doesn’t get any better.
Just in case the audience doesn't quite appreciate the true evil and villainy of the bad guys shown on screen, the makers of 'Cobra' open the film with a crazed gunman parking his motorcycle in a handicap space. Even after that whole voiceover spiel about the types of violence witnessed every minute of every day, we are shown this man's complete disregard not only for the law, but also his disdain for common civil decency. Now we understand the sort of lowlife scumbag we're dealing with, just as he enters a grocery store and takes the shoppers hostage. And if that weren't enough, the filmmakers even go that extra mile to have the scruffy-looking dude push an older lady from her metal shopping cart while suspiciously walking his way to the back of the store.
In a weird way, the opening actually does a pretty good job at setting expectations for the movie as a whole. 'Cobra' is the sort of over-the-top 80s actioner that's inadvertently funny because of the exaggerated and aggressive sense of masculinity on display. A young, attractive model (Brigitte Nielsen) accidentally witnesses the latest victim fall prey to a serial killer (dubbed the Night Slasher (Brian Thompson)) and a pair of his cronies. So, she of course becomes his next target and requires the protection of the surly walking-testosterone warhead codenamed "Cobra." Sylvester Stallone plays Cobra as an ultra-tough, one-man show whose worst injury is a band-aid over his right eye.
While the movie goes out of its way to overdo the villains' badness and celebrate masculine heroism, it does very little to explain the motivation of its stock characters. They're all living, breathing clichés, walking about in obligatory fashion. Stallone's Cobretti is repeatedly reprimanded and yelled at by his superiors (Art LaFleur and Andrew Robinson) for his neglect of proper protocol. His best friend and cop partner (Reni Santoni) follows him around like a loyal dog, waiting for that roll-your-eyes moment when he takes a bullet for the team. The reason for the creepy skull-and-axe gang even existing is never clearly explained, yet they're heavily armed and have plenty of police informants. And despite all the killing and nameless bodies scattered throughout the city of L.A., the only senseless victim that brought a tear to my eye was seeing that gorgeous 1950 Mercury Coupe in battleship grey be battered and abused in the hands of the reckless Cobra. That's the worst crime of all in this mess of an action flick.
Sylvester Stallone originally conceived the hardened model of police machismo as the main character for 'Beverly Hills Cop.' But when that didn't pan out, he later reworked and evolved his creation into a starring vehicle simply called 'Cobra.' It's a straight and narrow, shoot-'em-up actioner with a plot loosely based on the novel A Running Duck, which is also known as 'Fair Game.' And before you even ask: yes, the terrible movie with Cindy Crawford and William Baldwin is also loosely based on the same novel. I wonder if that 1995 flick technically counts as a remake of this 1986, balls-to-the-wall debacle? In either case, they both have little to do with the original source material, and have more in common with each other as unintentionally chintzy, gaudy action pictures.
Stallone also reunites with the director of 'Rambo: First Blood Part II,' George P. Cosmatos, who does decidedly well in adding some excitement to the silly, excessive action. In fact, it's the action, however middling it really is, which actually makes 'Cobra' bearable and somewhat passable — at least, a little, tiny bit. If only the rest of the movie didn't take itself so serious, particularly around the area that involves a very weak attempt at imparting some kind of moral against violence while also inflicting tons of loud, senseless violence on others, then it could have a chance at being worth remembering. Instead we have this dry, sullen and very stern film, most of it coming from a pair of glowering, sourpuss faces in Stallone and Thompson, which ultimately makes it rather forgettable.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Warner Home Video brings 'Cobra' to Blu-ray on a Region Free, BD25 disc housed inside a blue eco-case. Popped into the player, it goes directly to a static menu screen with the standard selection.
'Cobra' shoots up the screen with a mediocre and generally disappointing 1080p/VC-1 transfer (1.85:1).
Right from the start, it's clear there was no effort taken to offer the best possible presentation of this rather second-rate, shoot-'em-up actioner, looking only slightly better than an upconverted DVD. Definition and resolution range from average to downright inferior, showing very little in terms of fine, distinct details. In all honesty, the print used is not in terrible shape as it displays well-balanced contrast levels with clean whites, and blacks are fairly deep and true. Only, the quality of the video doesn't quite satisfy the high-standards of the format. Still, background info remains nicely delineated and visible during nighttime scenes and poorly-lit interiors. Colors receive the most noticeable boost and improvement, though the palette is never brightly or vividly rendered.
Overall, the high-def transfer is not likely to impressive anyone. Especially not Cobra.
Things improve a bit in the audio department with an adequate DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack.
While it's not the sort of audio design that envelops listeners, it is still somewhat engaging with a wide front soundstage. Discrete effects are convincingly delivered off-screen with strong channel separation that shows movement between the speakers smoothly. Dialogue reproduction is very clear and intelligible, even during a few whispered, intimate conversations. Viewers can enjoy every grunt and slurred word from Stallone with great transparency. The mid-range is also clean and stable, allowing for the several moments of action to sound precise with surprisingly good clarity and detail. Low bass is probably the least impressive of the entire track, coming off rather weak and hollow though still providing the movie with mild presence.
All in all, it's a pretty good lossless mix for an 80s Stallone action flick.
Bonus material has been ported over from the DVD release for this Blu-ray edition.
Written by and starring Sylvester Stallone, 'Cobra' is an unabashed ultra-macho action flick that relies heavily on stock characterization and explosive mayhem rather than on ingenuity or an engaging story. Director George P. Cosmatos does fairly well behind the camera, but there's little to make this 80s debacle into a memorable feature, other than it being a bad movie. The Blu-ray also comes with an average audio and video presentation and a weak set of bonus material. In the end, this package is for fans only.