The Original Rise of Cobra (1986)

Beverly Hills Cop is undoubtedly a classic film. Eddie Murphy in his prime and the movie is one of the funniest comedies of the eighties. Much of the credit has to go to the great script by The Big Easy screenwriter Daniel Petrie Jr., but it almost was a completely different film. Originally, Beverly Hills Cop was supposed to be a vehicle for Sylvester Stallone. Sly did some work on the script, but he backed out of the project when he was told the over the top action scenes would be too expensive for the budget of the film. Instead, he channeled all those ideas into the script for one of the greatest action films in Stallone’s oeuvre. Of course, I’m talking about Cobra, one of my favorite action films ever.

Stallone stars as Cobra, a member (and perhaps the only member) of LA’s “Zombie Squad”, so called because if you become their target you might as well be the living dead. Cobra has been relegated to the squad due to his reckless techniques and bad attitude, but when a job needs to be done, like dispatching a crazed gunman in a supermarket, he’s the man you call. The City of Angels has been terrorized by the Night Slasher killings, a series of murders being committed seemingly at random. When the beautiful model Ingrid, Brigitte Nielsen, escapes their clutches, Cobra makes it his mission to protect her. He tries to get her out of town, but a traitor within the force gives up their location leading to a massive shootout at a motel.

If the synopsis doesn’t make much sense, well, then it fits in nicely with the film I’m speaking of. Cobra is not a flick to watch if you’re interested in things like character development or a comprehensible plot, but if you want balls to the wall action, then this is the flick for you. The opening set piece of the film, the supermarket showdown, is perhaps my favorite opening sequence of any flick. It establishes Cobra as a badass cop with a badass car, but more than that, a man who could give Bond or Arnie a run for their money in the one-liner department. To prove my point I want to give you my top three lines from Cobra.

1. You’re the disease. I’m the cure.

2. This is where the law stops and I start, sucker.

3. Cobra (to thug smoking a cigarette): That’s bad for your health.
Thug: What?
Cobra: Me.

Those barely scratch the surface of the level of dialog that you’re looking at in Cobra. Plus, you’ve got a hero with a name like Cobra which is awesome, but you know what’s even better, that his name is really Marion Cobretti. This revelation leads to another classic interchange:

Cobra: I always wanted to have kinda a little tougher name.
Ingird: Like What?
Cobra: Alice.

Speaking of Ingrid. Who doesn’t miss early eighties Brigitte Nielsen? When I do, I know it’s time to check out Red Sonja or Cobra again. Sure, in Cobra, she’s not the redheaded vision in a chain mail bikini, but she does show off those fabulous legs in a montage joined by killings and random robots. As far as Brigitte’s performance, it could have really been anyone, but the future paramour of Flava Flav proves herself to have been respectable eye candy at the time.

Dirty Harry veteran Andrew Robinson shows up on the right side of the law in this flick. Robinson was the Scorpio Killer in the Eastwood classic, and horror fans will surely recognize him as Larry from Hellraiser. Robinson is very entertaining as the “by the book” cop that gets under Cobretti’s skin, and it was quite satisfying when Stallone clocks him. For some reason no matter what part he’s playing I just want to punch him in the face. Over and over. I really hope I never meet him anywhere as there’s no telling what I might do.

It’s not that Sly is bad so much as, well, he’s Sly. Cobra is the film that most typifies the Stallone that impressionists have a field day with. He acts strange, wears some of the highest waisted jeans ever seen, and mumbles through his dialog. He tries to give Cobretti all these little quirks with dramatic removals of his aviator sunglasses or when cuts part of the pizza off with scissors. He wears leather, drives an old Mercury, and one of his cop buddies calls him a “reject from the ‘50’s”, but Cobra is all about the ‘80’s. You know in a Stray Cats kind of way.

One of the other highlights of the film is Brian Thompson as the big bad known as the Night Slasher. With his Flea Market style spiked knife and imposing physique, he makes for quite a good foil for Stallone. Thompson is one of those actors who has an face that you know you’ve seen but you don’t know quite where. For me it turned out that I was reconciling him for being The Master’s Number 2, Luke, on Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 1. Thompson is still working, and continues to pop up in film and TV every now and then. If you’re a casting director looking for an abnormally large creep, then he’s the fellow you should call.

Cobra was directed by quite an underrated fellow, George P. Cosmatos. Not only did he direct this fine film he also helmed my favorite modern western Tombstone, and if they don’t make him my huckleberry, then I don’t know what would. Cobra was well shot with the action sequences and fighting done in some nice midrange shots. It’s always nice to look back at directors who knew how to shoot action. I prefer this style so much to the tightly shot, frenetically cut mush that passes for fight scenes these days.

There’s not much else to say about this epic except that you just have to see it. Everyone I’ve ever shown it to has had a good time, and that includes quite a few folks who don’t care for action in general or Sly in specific. It’s just one of those films that you’re just going to have a smile on your face by the end because of the sheer stupidity of the last ninety minutes. So check it out. Boredom is a disease, and Cobra it’s the cure.

Bugg Rating


  1. Oh yes! Love this one. I'm a big Stallone fan - which confuses almost anyone who knows me - but this is definitely high in the pile.
    The only thing that strikes me awry about it is how short it is - it's all over in well under an hour and a half. In a film of this scale, that usually means extensive post-production tampering, usually with the aim of changing something fundamental about it rather than the mere tweaking that is commonplace. Have you ever heard of anything like that? it's certainly exciting to think there may be a whole bunch of deleted sequences sitting about, waiting for the definitve DVD release, that hint at an entirely different kind of film to the one we have.

  2. I saw this movie when it first came out. I loved it. It's definitely not high brow. It's a blast to watch. Some really good action. I loved Sly's lines in this one.

  3. One reviewer summed up my reaction to this film: "I'd be offended if I thought the filmmakers were taking any of this seriously." But I don't think they are, and consequently this is about as fun as '80s action flicks get. The car being driven out of the second floor of the parking structure is a classic outrageous gag, and Stallone's retort to a man threatening to blow up a grocery store—"That's okay, I don't shop here."—is one of my favorite tough-guy lines of the decade.


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