When Cobra was released in May of 1986, Sylvester Stallone was still at the peak of his popularity. His two previous films were Rambo: First Blood Part II and Rocky IV, both of which were monster hits. It's no wonder, then, that this violent cop drama comes off as a bit of a vanity project. Stallone also wrote the script, which provides him with one moment after another designed to make him look cool. Every character who is not played by the actor gets short shrift. Audiences didn't care. They ate it up. While Cobra doesn't have the same high status as other Stallone pictures of the era, it remains one of the most notable '80s action flicks. Scream Factory's Collector's Edition Blu-ray gives it the treatment it deserves.
Stallone plays a cop named Marion Cobretti. We can tell what a no-nonsense ass-kicker he is from the first scene, where he effortlessly strolls into a supermarket hostage situation and lays waste to the bad guy. From there, he is assigned to protect a model named Ingrid (Brigitte Nielsen). She's the witness to a murder committed by a serial killer known as the Night Slasher (Brian Thompson) with ties to a cult of psychos. They're coming after her, so Cobretti has his work cut out for him. Fortunately, he has no compulsion about using deadly force.
At the time of its release, Cobra played like a really slick, hip thriller. It was well-photographed, and Stallone's macho posturing as the title character was exactly what audiences wanted and expected. Seen today, the seams show a bit. It's a little more clear how lacking in character development Cobra is, how parts of it really don't make a whole lot of sense, and how (as was customary at the time) music montages are used to tell chunks of the story.
Nonetheless, the action scenes are effectively staged – and there are a lot of them. From the opening grocery store shootout to the final confrontation between Cobretti and the Night Slasher in a foundry, there is no shortage of violent mayhem. An attack on Ingrid in a hospital is a particular highlight, thanks to quick pacing and skillful camera work. Stallone glides through all of them with his unflinching swagger, while Nielsen clearly strives to be more than a stereotypical damsel in distress.
Cobra remains a fun movie, even if it's a touch dated. Those of us who were there in the '80s know films just like this one were a staple of the American ticket-buyer's cinematic diet. Few exemplify the template better than this one.
Scream Factory has assembled an admirable collection of supplementary material for this release, which includes a new 2K scan of the original film elements and an audio commentary from director George P. Cosmatos. Also on the disc:
Stalking and Slashing - A 25-minute interview with actor Brian Thompson. An engaging storyteller, he talks about getting his big break in The Terminator, reveals that Stallone essentially directed all his own scenes in Cobra, and describes Cosmatos as “tyrannical.” Thompson is very candid, but also funny in relating his memories of production.
Meet the Disease - Actor Marco Rodriguez has just one memorable scene in Cobra – he's the guy who takes hostages in the supermarket during the opening sequence – but he breaks it down completely.
Feel the Heat - Running 14 minutes, this interview finds actor Andrew Robinson, who plays a fellow detective, explaining how he helped shape Cobra's ending.
Double Crossed - Actress Lee Garlington, who portrays one of the cult members, continues with the candid nature of the interviews. She doesn't go into specifics, but makes it clear that she didn't care for Cosmatos. The actress also discusses Stallone being somewhat aloof with her on set.
A World of Art - A chat with veteran character actor Art LaFleur who, like his co-stars, didn't exactly like Cosmatos. He goes into his pleasant working relationship with Stallone and where Cobra fits into his diverse career.
Rounding out the package are a vintage promotional featurette, two theatrical trailers, and a still gallery.
Cobra isn't Stallone's best film, yet it is an entertaining picture, and certainly a fine example of '80s action cinema. It's nice to see it celebrated via this release.
Cobra is rated R for violence, language, and some sexuality. The running time is 1 hour and 27 minutes.