Today’s feature is the Sylvester Stallone vehicle, Cobra.
The plot of Cobra is summarized on IMDb as follows:
A tough-on-crime street cop must protect the only surviving witness to a strange murderous cult with far reaching plans.
The screenplay for Cobra was penned by the Academy Award winning screenwriter and Academy Award nominated actor Sylvester Stallone, who also starred in film. His career as both an actor and screenwriter has had a fair share of ups and downs: flops like Judge Dredd, Rhinestone, and Driven, cult classics like Demolition Man, Rocky IV, Cliffhanger, and Over The Top, the label-defying homo-erotic buddy cop masterpiece Tango & Cash, and genre-defining flicks like First Blood and Rocky. In many ways, he is a genre unto himself.
The credited director for Cobra was George Cosmatos, who also directed the films Leviathan and Rambo: First Blood Part II, and was questionably credited with directing Tombstone after the initial director was dismissed. However, much like with Tombstone, there is some question as to whether his credit on Cobra is legitimate.
Beyond Stallone, the cast of Cobra includes Brigitte Nielsen (Red Sonja, Beverly Hills Cop II), Reni Santoni (Dirty Harry, Rain Man), and Brian Thompson (Mortal Kombat: Annihilation, Doctor Mordrid, Lionheart).
The film has two credited editors: Don Zimmerman (Galaxy Quest, Half Baked, Over The Top, Rocky IV) and James Symons (Tank Girl, Fortress 2, Rambo III, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III).
The cinematographer for Cobra was Ric Waite, who also shot On Deadly Ground, Red Dawn, and Footloose, among others.
Cobra was produced in part by the legendary Cannon Group duo of Yoram Globus and Menahem Globus, who produced such films as Enter The Ninja, Over The Top, Masters of the Universe, Superman IV, Breakin’, American Ninja, The Apple, and Lifeforce, among many others.
The screenplay for Cobra is very loosely based on the novel Fair Game by Paula Gosling. Part of why it barely resembles the alleged source material is because Stallone added in numerous elements that he had come up with for his rewrite of Beverly Hills Cop, before he was ultimately dismissed from the project in favor of Eddie Murphy.
The initial cut of Cobra clocked in at over two hours, and reportedly featured much more violence and a far more fleshed-out plot than what ultimately made it to theaters. First, the decision was made to trim the film in order an extra theatrical screening each day in the theaters, in the hopes that the profits would be inflated. Even after these cuts, however, the MPAA gave the film an X rating. After that, lots of the violence was further toned down or removed to make it more palatable for distribution. The final theatrical release of the film clocked in at 87 minutes, meaning that over half an hour of plot and violence was omitted since the initial director’s cut. While this version has never received an official release, a work print does exist, and has been distributed underground.
Sylvester Stallone’s character in Cobra, Marion Cobretti, is named after John Wayne, whose real first name was Marion.
The iconic knife featured in Cobra was custom-made for the production by Herman Schneider, an acclaimed artisan knife-maker, and was intended to be distinct enough to stand out.
It is widely rumored that Cobra was actually directed by Sylvester Stallone, and that credited director George Cosmatos essentially performed the duty of a producer. At this point, this is generally accepted as true, given the number of crew who have claimed as such over the years.
Cobra was ultimately nominated for six Golden Raspberry awards, which are annually given out to the judged worst films and performances of the year. These included citations for Worst Director, Worst Actor, Worst Actress, Worst Supporting Actor, Worst New Star, Worst Screenplay, and Worst Picture.
The car that features prominently in Cobra is a customized 1950 Mercury that was actually owned by Sylvester Stallone. Replicas were made for the various stunt scenes throughout the movie that were indistinguishable from the outside to the casual viewer.
The poster for the film Another WolfCop is a parody of the iconic poster art for Cobra, and features the distinctive elements of a red background, reflective sunglasses, dark clothing, and a laser-sighted handgun aimed casually upwards.
Apparently, Stallone was a complete nightmare to work with during the filming of Cobra. In many ways, he was at the height of his powers, and was on a permanent ego trip. He refused to speak to most of the cast and crew, and spent most of his time flirting with his co-star and eventual wife Brigitte Nielsen instead of performing his duties. His antics regularly delayed scenes, and generally created a negative working atmosphere.
Apparently, Cobra had a slight influence on the cult hit Drive. Both the director, Nicolas Winding Refn, and the star, Ryan Gosling, are big fans of the movie, and Gosling modeled some of his character’s mannerisms after Cobretti, including his chewing habit (though the match is replaced with a toothpick).
The production budget for Cobra has been estimated at $25 million, on which it grossed $160 million worldwide over its theatrical run. This made it significantly profitable, though people tend to look back on it as a failure. This is probably because Cobra got a mostly negative reception from both critics and audiences. It currently holds an IMDb user rating of 5.7/10, along with Rotten Tomatoes scores of 13% from critics and 42% from audiences.
Cobra might the most “Sylvester Stallone” of the horde of 1980s Sylvester Stallone movies: it is stylistic to a point, cool, fun, shallow, and almost entirely mindless. It is just about everything you could possibly want from this era of Stallone.
That said, the bizarre plot has some interesting potential to it. The antagonistic cult is way more interesting than Cobretti, but doesn’t get a whole lot of focus. Apparently, this was something that was lost in the initial studio cut of the movie, prior to the second MPAA necessitated cut. I’m kind of curious to see the work print because of this: the extra violence might make it a more fun watch, but I’m curious how much the further focus on the cult might help the film’s story.
As far as action movies go, this is one of the coolest ones from a visual standpoint that you’ll come across. What it lacks in cerebral content and sensibility it almost makes up for with a fascinating mastery of color, a litany of violent deaths, and some pretty damn cool stunts. In general, I think it is a solid recommend for action movie fans. Even the shitty acting and bad line reads sort of suit the tone and style of the movie. If you need to let your brain check out for a bit, this is one way to do it. Just don’t listen too much or look too hard, and there is something to appreciate here.