Cobra (1986)
By: Devon B. on December 24, 2012 | Comments
Warner Bros. (USA) | Region Free | 1.85:1, 1080p | English DTS-HD MA 5.1 | 87 minutes (Full Specs)
The Movie
Cover Art
Director: George Cosmatos
Starring: Sylvester Stallone, Brigitte Nielsen, Reni Santoni, Brian Thompson
Screenplay: Sylvester Stallone
Country: USA
External Links
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'Tis the season and all that shit, and what could be more festive than a failed franchise launch from Sylvester Stallone? Clearly trying to create another long lasting character like Rocky or Rambo, Stallone cobbled together a bunch of action clichés for Cobra, but at least he had the good sense to set the thing at Xmas.

It's that brief era of Coke Classic, and Stallone is a cop nicknamed The Cobra who, in a surprise twist, plays by his own rules. He might be a rebel, but The Cobra gets shit done, and in getting shit done he runs afoul of The Night Slasher, a nasty serial killer. Brigitte Nielsen is a woman who can identify The Night Slasher, so Stallone wants to keep her safe. Unfortunately, The Night Slasher ain't just some crazy dude, he's part of a full crazy cult, and the cult are willing to pull out all the stops in a nonsensical plan to make sure Nielsen doesn't finger their golden boy. Like in a police line-up, I mean, not like shove her phalange up his sphincter. If that was the case, the movie would have to be called Ass Cobra.

Cobra starts well, with Stallone called in to a hostage situation at a supermarket, but then the film meanders around for awhile. When Nielsen gets into peril the movie gets much better, but then it heads back into more meandering. Thankfully the climax is good, but for such a short movie, Cobra has way too much foo foo la la.

The pacing isn't the only thing that doesn't quite work in Cobra, almost everything has a problem of some sort. Everything about the Cobra character is designed to look cool, from his sunnies, to his car, to his matchstick, but rather than forming a cohesive whole, it feels like a bunch of try-hard attempts to make the character iconic. Other areas of the movie are forced, too, and they can be very grating. I admit Cobra's car looks cool as it rushes past two burning trucks, but the set up to get the trucks burning is so laboured that only viewers that have completely switched their brains off will be able to wholeheartedly accept it, let alone get excited by the image. Cobra's attempts at coolness are only hampered more by the severely dated soundtrack, lame music that now just further highlights how overblown other elements of the film are.

I recalled Cobra as a bleak, dry film, perhaps just because the only thing I could clearly remember was the intensely sombre reading of crime stats that opens the film, but it does have a sense of humour. However, like much of the film, it's uneven. Stallone flips between deadpan Dirty Harry-esque quips and Rocky-esque corniness, uncertain what he wants the character to be. The attempts at humour are often too self-aware, but I did find when Stallone slid closer to Rocky corniness the movie seemed to relax and become funny and entertaining. Coupling the corny stuff with the sterner stuff leaves the overall effect confused, like Stallone wanted to do a dark, broody character but couldn't help himself from slipping into his more loveable, playful schtick.

Another thing I found distracting in Cobra was the casting of Nielsen as Stallone's love interest. She stands at 1.85 metres against Stallone's 1.77, and because I knew she had to be significantly taller than him, I kept watching out for a shot that showed their actual height disparity. The filmmakers did a good job hiding the David and Goliath situation of their leads, but it was an elephant in the room for me.

Ultimately there are only two things that I totally embraced with Cobra: The fact it's set at Xmas and the villain with his outrageously sinister knife. Brian Thompson played The Night Slasher, and he gives the character a manic edge, but only chews the scenery when its beneficial, and keeps things restrained at other times so he can build a quite menace. Thompson gives the film a grittier feel, but unfortunately this comes to odds against Stallone's wacky joking. I like Thompson enough that I may have preferred Cobra as a completely serious cop film, even though I normally enjoy the humour element in Stallone's movies.

Aside from Thompson, the good elements in Cobra have been seen before in more consistent movies. Because the film is not quite sure what it wants to be it is very uneven, but fans of 80s action or alternative Xmas movies should check it out anyway.
While the grain can be strong at points, the print is pretty clean. There's a little bit of black crush, and Cobra isn't the sharpest or most detailed Blu-ray I've seen, but it doesn't look too bad given the film's age and the fact it seems intentionally scuzzy. There's also some edge enhancement and in one shot there's some weird noise. HD hasn't made Cobra into eye candy, but the Blu-ray does a decent job presenting the film.
The English audio is a 5.1 remix, and some direction has been added so Cobra's car races past, gunfire whizzes around, and explosions engulf the viewer. There are a few touches of distortion, but otherwise the track is clear. It's not bad, but I still would've liked to have the original audio included as well. There're also a few lossy dubs. There are French, Italian, Polish, Spanish and Czech 2.0 tracks, and a Russian 5.1 and a Portuguese 1.0.
Extra Features
The Blu-ray has the trailer; an eight minute vintage making of that says Cobra is the next Rocky/Rambo and interviews Stallone, Nielsen and director George Cosmatos; and a commentary with Cosmatos. The commentary is a bit scattershot, with Cosmatos happy to point out the obvious most of the time but occasionally giving some worthwhile information. I didn't really think the information was worth the time it took to get, given all the filler where Cosmatos just stated what was happening on screen.
The Verdict
Movie Score
Disc Score
Overall Score
A Stallone Xmas movie with an axe-wielding cult and a psycho slasher should be one of my favourites, but I found myself bored for at least a quarter of the movie. At least it has some good action set pieces, and Thompson certainly adds value, so it's not a total flop. The Blu-ray isn't bad at all for a budget catalogue title, but it is missing out on the film's original audio so there is room for improvement.

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