The Direct to Video Connoisseur

I'm a huge fan of action, horror, sci-fi, and comedy, especially of the Direct to Video variety. In this blog I review some of my favorites and not so favorites, and encourage people to comment and add to the discussion. If you click on an image, it will take you to that post's image page, which includes many more pics from the film and other goodies I couldn't fit in the actual review. For announcements and updates, don't forget to Follow us on Twitter and Like our Facebook page. If you're the director, producer, distributor, etc. of a low-budget feature length film and you'd like to send me a copy to review, you can contact me at dtvconnoisseur[at]yahoo.com. I'd love to check out what you got.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Cobra (1986)

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700 is an interesting milestone number. It's not as big as 750, which is huge, because it's three-quarters to 1000, but it is something worth noting, and I figured I'd take the opportunity it affords to review a movie that has a very DTV pedigree, but did extremely well at the box office. Produced by DTVC Hall of Famers Golan-Globus for Cannon films, it was then picked up and distributed by Warner Bros., where it went onto gross almost $50 million domestically, and much more worldwide and through video rentals and sales. A big part of that was the star power of Sly Stallone, who also penned this, but it was a pretty sweet actioner too. Of the many reviews of this on the Internet, our friends Ty at Comeuppance Reviews, Simon at Explosive Action, and Kenner at Movies in the Attic (in his Stallone Binge) are three worth checking out. (And if anyone else has done this, by all means, drop the link in the comments section.)

Cobra has Stallone as Marion Cobretti, aka Cobra, a badass who wants to clean the streets, but feels like bleeding heart liberals are getting in his way-- or not. Anyway, a serial killer is slashing up women, scaring the people of LA, and causing all kinds of panic. Turns out it's a whole army of people doing the killing, and supermodel Brigitte Nielsen catches leader Brian Thompson and co. in the act of cleaning up after a murder. Now they want her dead, and will stop at nothing to do that. Only Cobra has the skills it takes to take them down, and that's just what he plans to do.

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I hadn't seen this in years, but I gotta say, I think I like it even more now than I did as a kid. It's way over the top (I know, another Stallone/Cannon collaboration) in it's action, with massive explosions, gun fights, and car chases. It's a sweet case of 80s excess. Yes, it has some misguided political overtones that I'll get into later, but overall, this delivers everything we want from a bad action movie, from the hero, the baddie, the distressed damsel, the one-liners, the fantastic 80s soundtrack, and the balls to the wall excitement. This is what you came for, and Stallone and Golan-Globus don't disappoint. Also, love Cobra's car-- too bad it had to go in a too sweet chase scene!

As you've probably heard me say multiple times on here, mixing politics with action movies is often a losing proposition. I put it behind letting the plot get in the way and casting annoying kids as the worst bad action movie offenses. Here we had some really misguided, misinformed statements about the state of the justice system in 1980s America, from the idea that judges undermine police officers by being too lenient on criminals-- ask all the people who were wrongly convicted at that time that were exonerated by DNA evidence later how they feel about that--, to the media wants to turn criminals into victims-- including an absurd and implausible scene where a reporter berates Stallone for killing a guy who held the patrons of a supermarket at gunpoint and had killed hostages himself; no one has sympathy for that kind of criminal, and the media always vilifies perpetrators like that and has no qualms with the cops killing them--, to finishing with the classic "Brian Thompson will just be found insane and get away with all this"-- which is so dumb I can't even imagine Stallone himself believed that crap when he wrote it. The thing is, this is one of the rare cases where the bad action is so good it transcends these shortcomings. It's like dating the crazy girl that's hot and good in the sack-- you can handle a little psycho texting and stalking when everything else is so hot.

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One thing I didn't notice when I was younger that I see now is how great the cinematographer and director infused these Hitchcockian suspense shots. This is the kind of stuff we want from a good horror movie, and it's here in Cobra for Christ's sake! Really amped up the tension for me, and made Brian Thompson that much better a baddie. A good bad action flick is only as good as its baddie, and Thompson is one of the best, but it's always cool to see a film maker taking it that extra mile, and not leaning on his or her actors so much. Modern DTV, with its penchant for using former actors and stuntmen as directors, could learn from casting directors and DPs that know what they're doing, and can add that extra layer, like we see here.

It doesn't get much bigger than Stallone in 1986. Arnold Schwarzenegger was right there with him, and then maybe Bruce Willis after Die Hard in '88, but after that there's some drop off. I have a feeling Van Damme didn't do The Expendables in part because he's always seen himself as on Stallone's level, but we all know that's not really accurate, and taking a bit part in Stallone's movie would have been a not-so-tacit recognition of that fact. The thing with both Stallone and Schwarzenegger was that they felt like they had to not only top each other, but top their own previous work. Everything had to be bigger, badder, more explosive, and eventually the kind of action movie they did imploded under its own weight. But now we've had 15 to 20 years to get that out of our system, and Stallone has come back to us with the kind of stuff from the late 80s/early 90s that we loved, with both The Expendables and Rambo. What I like about something like Cobra though, is that we get to experience 80s excess as it's happening, and guys like Stallone and Schwarzenegger are still in their prime.

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This movie was brought to you by Pepsi. This movie was paid for by Pepsi. In this shot you have some Coors too, but mostly this was brought to you by Pepsi. The volume of Pepsi product placement is astounding-- it's like a frickin' football stadium here. I gotta say, though, if Pepsi advertised like this and got rid of their dumb commercials-- and they have some of the dumbest on TV-- I'd buy their shit in a heartbeat, and I don't even drink soda anymore. Same goes for Coors. Get rid of the stupid cans that tell me when they're cold, and the even dumber commercials advertising them; or worse, those annoying ones with the sanctimonious Sam Elliot voice overs; and replace them strictly with DTV action movie product placement, and I'll be a Coors drinker for life. Alas, none of this will ever happen, and so I'm left with water, coffee, and PBR.

All right, before this turns into free adverts for Pepsi and Coors, I better wrap this up. This is a classic bad actioner, and despite some shortcomings, it's a blast. Currently you can check it out on Watch Instantly, but this is one that's worth having in the collection, even if it's only a cheap used DVD or VHS. Also, I'll be saying this again in 50 posts, but I just want to thank everyone for supporting the DTVC, 700 posts and counting!

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0090859/

31 comments:

  1. Great review. Congratulations on your 700th post!

    Cobra is a Stallone classic! Love the all the one-liners. "This is where the law stops, and i start...sucka!"

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  2. Thank you man, and yeah, this movie is sweet. "Cobretti, do you know you have an attitude problem?" "Yeah, but it's only a little one."

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  3. Love that line! and of course:

    "You're the disease, and I'm the cure."

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  4. Ha ha ha, yes! And there's "Don't do it it man, I'll blow this whole place up!" "Go ahead, I don't shop here." Where did those great one-liners go? I think movie makers today think that kind of thing is silly, but it's like "dude, the whole thing is silly, and that's why we love it! We're not coming here for Bergmanesque dialog, we want 'Let off some steam Bennett'!"

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  5. Congrats on 700, man. I love this movie too. The first ten minutes or so might be my favorite opening sequence from a Stallone flick with the exception of The Expendables.

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  6. Thanks man, and I agree, this starts great, and gets better. Just an all around sweet action flick.

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  7. OMG this looks awesome. I love young Stallone, and this sounds like a great flick to watch him in.

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  8. I'm with you on the one-liners. I love the cheesy of fun of 80s action films. Alos, Van Damme and Seagal were big, but they're pretty much footnotes when compared to Stallone and Schwarzenegger. S & S couldn't be touched back then.

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  9. Hoaks, You'll definitely love this one, it's essential viewing. And I agree Jack, those two were so big in the 80s and 90s, and it was because they were so big that guys like van Damme and Seagal had careers at all. I liked that scene in The Expendables where we get a taste of Stallone and Schwarzenegger's rivalry, but takes watching these older ones again to get a true sense of it.

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  10. Cutting cold pizza with scissors = Cinematic greatness

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  11. The scene in the diner, as Cobretti has to kick the jukebox to play an extremely naff 80's ballad (that actually sounds like Stallone himself) is comedy gold. And the The Cobra's hilarious 'over-sized' burger gag (plus "Your french fries need a life preserver" line) are the icing on the cake.

    My nephew and I, constantly say "Hot item" when shopping .....quickly followed by "No sale" (when we put them back on the shelves)

    Say what you want about Marion Cobretti...but he (quote) "sure is good at catching psychos"

    Congrats on the 700 posts/reviews (it would take me a thousand years to do likewise)

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  12. Wow 700th post! Great milestone Matt. This movie is awesome. Love how you can see reflections in Stallone's sunglasses. Easily the coolest character Stallone ever played.

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  13. Oh yes, the cutting the cold pizza with scissors, the fries needing a life preserver, hot item no sale, it's all amazing. And I definitely wanted a good Stallone in shades shot to get that good reflecting effect. The more I read you guys' comments, the happier I am that I went with this one for post 700.

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  14. Many congrats on 700, man! And what a brilliant choice! Cobra is definitely in my Top-10! Pretty much the only thing that bothered me with it was that Cobra drove his car into a boat! That seemed so not like Cobra, you know? Not sure if you were aware of this, but some dude on the IMDb boards had noticed that just before Cobra crashes, the car of the bad guys appears crashed below the boat! So apparently they originally crashed there first and then did something to cause Cobra crash. I imagine it didn't work in the final cut, but that still saved it for me! And the politics... This was Sly's Dirty Harry. Same partner, Robinson playing a character who's a polar opposite to Scorpio... I considered those rants just a homage to Dirty Harry. Besides, they were so overblown, they didn't bother me here.

    This is quite a coincidence. The current DVD available here sucks, especially the subtitles, so a friend of mine (also a huge fan of Cobra) asked just last week if I could find a decent version of it and also create better Finnish subtitles. Since I love the film and this guy had already bought the DVD (so it wasn't illegal), I agreed. Now, this one was personal on many levels (Cobra's Jatimatic is a Finnish weapon!), so I wanted to do it perfectly. I used a transparent DVD case and made double-sided DVD sleeve with custom chapter listings and I finished it literally yesterday!

    Not that anyone cares, but here are four pics. The first is of the original cover. The second is "work in progress" (ie. the ones that were not worthy of Cobra - the final product is seen on the right). The third is the cover I eventually used (the barbell is the logo of my friend's company). And the fourth is the other side. The name of the friend has been censored to protect the innocent:

    http://img707.imageshack.us/img707/2674/coriginal.jpg
    http://img9.imageshack.us/img9/7540/cwip.jpg
    http://img4.imageshack.us/img4/6291/cnew.jpg
    http://img607.imageshack.us/img607/84/c3chapters.jpg

    As for the language... I kinda overdid it there? Monte told me he personally would have looked for a more...subtle solution. But that's not my style. Sorry for the long rant. No hard feelings (preparing to take a punch...)?

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  15. Hey man, I'm glad you're passionate about this stuff, it means you're in the right place. And that DVD looks sweet. By all means, feel free to post links to any other DVDs you make, it'll be really cool to see them. By the way, what's the Finnish word for Cobra?

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  16. The cutting pizza with scissors scene was amazing! He randomly put his newspaper under his grill too!

    Also: Stallone's narration in the beginning was killer!:

    "In America there's a burglary every 11 seconds, an armed robbery every 65 seconds, a violent crime every 25 seconds, A murder every 24 minutes, and 250 rapes a day."

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  17. Oh my God, the newspaper in the grill, I forgot about that! It's like he's hiding it or something, or does he use it for fuel? What would a burger taste like on a grill with burning newspaper under it? And I agree, we need more Stallone narration. Maybe he can do audio books: "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times-- let's face it, times were just shitty."

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  18. Finnish word for cobra the snake is just kobra (basic rule to make an English word Finnish - just replace c with k...). The film is now only Cobra. When released theatrically, it had "Lain vahva käsi" (Strong arm of the law) as part of the name. The official subtitles were quite fun. "I'm a sucker for good conversation" -> "I suck at talking" and when Marion-name comes up and Cobra says he would have wanted a tougher one, the subtitles make it seem like he would've wanted his...erm...private parts to be...harder... I also did new subtitles for Marked for Death recently. There was the Pacula-line "I finally met a guy who's nice, not married, gay, or trying to find himself" and originally it was translated as "I finally met a single beautiful gay guy who tries to find himself"...

    Cobra came out on Blu-ray recently and I'm still angry that the local magazine where I write film columns and reviews didn't allow me to review it. Instead, they got this older woman to review it who, amazingly enough, did give it two stars instead of one, but only because "at least it wasn't quite as bad as Commando"!

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  19. You know I realized that after I posted the comment, because it's "Kobra" in German too, and I figured, at least in a case like that, that they'd be similar.

    That's too bad about having a colleague do "Cobra" instead of you, and to say "at least it wasn't as bad as Commando" shows that her opinion isn't valid on the subject. They should've let someone as passionate as you make it happen.

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  20. great review man! i was actually considering doing a Cobra review in the near future on my blog, but i don't think it could be as cool as yours.
    and i miss the day of the one-liners too. i don't think it's really for a lack of one-liner films, but a lack of one-liner actors. honestly, who do we have that can compare to Sly and Arnold? Dwayne Johnson is the only one that comes to mind. he just needs to stop making those crappy ass kid flicks and stick to stuff like The Rundown and Faster.

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  21. Yours might be even cooler than mine, plus I think it would be a great addition to your site.

    As far as the one-liners go, I can't believe I keep forgetting the theatrical cut of Chronicles of Riddick. Really hilarious, excellent one-liners. Not as good in the director's cut though, so be warned. Some of the best were:

    "When it happens, it'll happen fast. Stay on my leg when I cut fence or die here!"

    and

    "You made three mistakes: First: you took the job. Second: you came light. Four man crew for me? Fuckin' insultin'. Third: you guessed it, empty gun rack."

    and

    "It's been a long time since I smelled beautiful."

    No, it's not as good as the older ones, but it's not too bad.

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  22. i had read an interview with Stallone when he was doing a Q & A on Aintitcool when he was promoting Expendables that he felt Cobra didn't come out as it was intended and didn't do as well as they had hoped. I don't see how, I thought Cosmatos did a bang up job on here. I always thought it would have been a great franchise and I wish they had made more of them. Cobra is such a badass character. Actually, since he's revitalizing a couple of his characters like Rocky and Rambo I think he should bring Cobra back. Oh man, that would be rad!

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  23. I agree, a remake would be nice, though with less of the erroneous political stuff. Also, as far as doing more with the character, do you remember the syndicated TV show with DTVC Hall of Famer Michael Dudikoff?

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  24. get the f*** outta here! there was a Cobra show!?
    with Dudikoff?!

    and i think he should seriously consider revisiting the character. he's still go the goods to play him. he should do a sequal, with someone like Craig R. Baxley or Walter Hill directing and make it more hard edged and more violent. that would be sweet!

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  25. Unfortunately the TV show only lasted one year. It was produced by the late Stephen J. Cannell, who did greats like The Rockford Files and Renegade. I'd like to see it on DVD, who knows if that'll happen though.

    I agree that I'd like to see Stallone revisit this one, but I have a feeling he'd want to direct it himself, which is fine too. He did a great job revisiting Rocky and Rambo on his own terms, so I'm sure he'd do well with Cobra.

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  26. Mill Creek (or Visual Entertainment, if you live in Canada) has released the entire Cobra TV-show on DVD for a rather low price. Available on all major online retailers. The show was originally called Viper, which is weird, since Dudikoff was always meant to drive an AC Cobra. A fun show. Sam Jones is the bad guy in the pilot and Richard Lynch plays a Hannibal Lecter-clone in one episode (only this one is a pyromaniac, not a cannibal). Unfortunately they clearly ran out of money about mid-way through the season and started recycling footage from old episodes of Stingray etc. Sadly, no inside jokes to Stallone's movie in any episode.

    It's widely believed that Stallone actually directed Cobra himself, just like Kurt Russell directed Tombstone, but Cosmatos got the credit. No-one has actually confirmed this 100%, but cinematographer Ric Waite, for example, said Cosmatos didn't know anything about directing and Russell apparently wanted to direct Tombstone but didn't want the credit, so he asked Stallone who would be a director who'd do what he's asked to do and Sly offered Cosmatos based on Cobra (I guess he learned what Cosmatos was all about during Rambo). On some interviews Stallone has talked about Cobra using phrases like "I should have used a shot like X" or "I should have cut out Y", which makes one wonder... In any case, Stallone clearly had A LOT of input here. I guess they were expecting Rocky/Rambo-style profits, but really, this made three times as much domestically as Stallone's next, Over the Top, and over $100m on international markets, so what the heck were they expecting? As a first in a possible franchise, this was more successful than First Blood.

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  27. Hey, thanks for the heads up on the TV show, it's available on DVD at Amazon, so that's not a bad deal.

    So maybe Stallone was forced to make cuts, a la Pyun in Cyborg, that he didn't want to make. Either way, based on what he's done with other properties he's associated with, I think he could really make this one great.

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  28. TJ, thats so fascinating. if it's true, then i wonder why Stallone would hire Cosmatos again after working on Rambo II if he in fact didn't know how to direct. And he himself had already been an established director by then, so why not just take credit for it? And if Russell did in fact do a lot of the directing on Tombstone, then that guy needs to get behind the camera more often because i loved the look of it. But, to me it looked like a George P. Cosmatos film so i'm not sure how much of what Ric Waite said is true, but it's a fascinating theory though. It'll be fun doing some digging on the matter. And thanks to you and DtVC for the heads up on the Cobra show. I'm shocked that I had no idea the thing even existed! I have to check this sucker out.
    We should start a campaign to get Stallone to revisit the Cobra character and do a sequel, whether he directs it himself or not. I think playing an older Cobra character would be freakin' awesome!

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  29. Mill Creek is also selling the complete series of Renegade and Stingray for bargain prices. All five seasons of Renegade for just $35. Mill Creek really deserves credit for that! 110 episodes, 4810 minutes... That's a lot of Lorenzo and Branscombe!

    I think it's obvious Cobra had several scenes edited out, but apparently there were no major problems, since Stallone worked with Golan-Globus and Warner Bros again. Perhaps he was just disappointed that the character didn't become an instant classic like Rambo? But it's interesting how some films keep finding new and new audiences from every generation. Looking back now, it's hard to believe the holy Craig R. Baxley-trilogy (Action Jackson, Dark Angel and Stone Cold) would have flopped at the box office. Or that John Carpenter's The Thing wouldn't have been recognized as a masterpiece. Sometimes it just takes time for films to be recognized for how awesome they truly are. My wet dream: Craig R. Baxley directing The Expendables 2!

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  30. Dude! I don't know if you've ever read any of my reviews or posts, but i've stated quite frequently that I have an unhealthy man love for Craig R. Baxley. The guy is a god to me and I feel the same way, he does a 3-badass film trilogy and then goes straight to t.v. work for the rest of his career. what the hell?
    I know I stated on a past post also that I wanted either him or Walter Hill to do the next Expendables because I'm still not sold on Simon West, especially not after The Mechanic. It was alright, but nothing to get excited about.
    This is such a trip, I thought I was the only one obsessed with Baxley.

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  31. According to Russell, Sly also directed Rambo and gave Cosmatos the credit. Check this interview with Russell, first answer:

    http://www.truewestmagazine.com/jcontent/entertainment/entertainment/western-movies/2787-the-western-godfather

    I actually don't know why Stallone nor Russell would refuse to take credit. Perhaps, in the case of Cobra, Stallone was afraid it would be seen as nothing more but a vanity project? Or perhaps he was unsure about Rambo (since it was such a departure from First Blood) and wanted some distance from it, so he hired Cosmatos? And after Rambo became a hit, he hired Cosmatos again, so they could advertise it as being from the director of Rambo? Hard to say.

    And Baxley... You know how they're using that phrase "things blow up real good" in reviews? Well, they're wrong. Things might blow up PRETTY good in those movies, but things blow up REAL good only in Baxley's films! He was the true king of action directors. I listened to an interview with him and that "bike, chopper, explosion, car, another explosion"-scene? It really was his original idea. Simon West? Certainly not the worst choice around, but NOTHING compared to Baxley.

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