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
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.
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.
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.
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/