Recently I took a look at another film that was released in 1986 and flirted with the idea that it didn't age well as the years have gone by. And if something that was more thrilling at the time (like Top Gun) hasn't aged well, what about Cobra? Honestly, the film might have been more recognizable to me because its two stars met and fell in love (eventually marrying) during principal photography. And if it's more notable for the off-set happenings, how good is the movie?
In sum, it isn't. Stallone backed out of starring in Beverly Hills Cop in order to write this screenplay which is loosely adapted from the Paula Gosling novel "Fair Game." Directed by George Cosmatos (Tombstone), Stallone plays a cop named Cobretti, who works in something called a "zombie squad," which is supposed to make him a really good cop or something, but in reality he's playing a Dirty Harry clone, if Dirty Harry had better hair and was six inches shorter. Cobretti is charged to protect a woman named Ingrid (Brigitte Nielsen, Rocky IV), who drove by an apparent murder. Subsequently, she is chased by those who did it. As it turns out, those criminals have an influence wider than Cobretti could have imagined.
There is so much wrong with this movie that it's almost numbing to consider. Stallone's script is short on dialogue (as Stallone's scripts are wont to do), and while Ingrid is unsure of how to read Cobretti, once the two start a dialogue with each other, Cobretti's dialogue is so silly and basic that I felt as if my IQ was dropping while watching it. Sure, he wants to lighten the mood and brighten Ingrid's day because her present situation is slightly grave, but come on.
Stallone doesn't get much help either. Nielsen's performance is barely there, relying more on chemistry than actual ability. Reni Santoni and Andrew Robinson (both of whom coincidentally appeared in Dirty Harry) play Cobra's partner and boss, respectively, and the former steals scenes from the stars, while the latter simply lacks the sort of charisma that would make him have more than one facet. He plays the prototypical "bureaucratic cop opposed to Cobretti's strategies" to a tee. The main villain in the film is nameless, known only as "Night Slasher," but is played by Brian Thompson, who does a great job in the film of looking menacing, and very little else. He appears to be the dominant force of a group that dishes out violence in Los Angeles as if it were candy, and when they're not killing or assaulting people, they're in an abandoned warehouse, banging axes together. Axes look cool if you are a fan of soccer in Portland, but in a movie where you're supposed to be a badass in the City of Angels? Not so much. Yet for the hollow story and dreadful acting, the movie earns its keep on shooting bad guys, car chases and blowing things up, sometimes in slow motion. If there is one thing that annoys me (next to a tofu bar at a grocery store), it's when you go flash over substance and there isn't even any worthwhile flash to 'ooh' and 'ahh' over. It's like going to a hamburger place only to see that they are serving hot dogs. If you're going to be an action film full of explosions and gunfire, at least make them entertaining. This doesn't do that.
I took the liberty of looking, and when it came to the movie, it made (according to the film's Wiki page) almost $200 million all told, and just about $50 million here. I'm glad that people were getting tired of Sly here back in the day, but really Rest of the World? And YOU hate US?!? I know we have got our faults, but if this is legit, then there's a reason why you guys are in that economic recession that I keep hearing about. What started as a relationship between Stallone and Nielsen should have stayed there, and we would not have had to been subjected to Cobra.
The Blu-ray Disc:
Warner presents Cobra in 1.85:1 widescreen and uses the VC-1 codec to boot. The film wasn't the most attractive looking to begin with and on Blu-ray is not reinventing the wheel. Image detail is sparse, though black levels are fine and flesh tones are as accurate as possible. The source material doesn't look entirely pristine, and from viewings on tape and television I didn't expect it to be, but I'd presume any leap from standard definition to Blu-ray is marginal at best.
Slightly surprising to see that Warner gave this catalog title a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track, but it's not doing much with this sonically lackluster soundtrack. Bullet sounds overcompensate in volume and don't pack any low-end punch compared to modern films, and channel panning/directional effects are as rare as any sense of decency the filmmakers possess. Dialogue sounds fine in the center channel with little to no bleeding into the additional speakers. Overall it's nice in intent and execution, but how can you build up something that's barely serviceable?
The extras from the old standard definition disc have been ported over, starting with a commentary from Cosmatos. This is a drab track, with a lot of the director introducing a scene and occasionally providing some semi-specific recollection or shot intent before slipping into the bath of silence as a participant. About an hour into the track he gets a little off-topic, but does not flirt with it that much. It's bland and boring and has no redeeming value to the experience. From there, a behind the scenes piece (7:50) includes on set footage and interviews with Cosmatos and Stallone on the production and his intent on it as a writer. The trailer (1:29) wraps it up.
As an action movie, Cobra is vanilla. As a movie movie, Cobra is a wretched look back in time when Coke Classic was abundant and movie stars still thought that one-liners were a way to pack theaters. Like the era, Cobra should be left better untold, particularly with underwhelming technical qualities and a disappointing commentary track. Not Stallone's best by any interpretation, and you should avoid watching it unless it's been used as a form of punishment.