Somewhere in the film Black Cobra, co-directed by Scott Donovan and Illy Mlegar, is a storyline but you have to want to pay attention to it to find it. You'd think, given the cool cover art and the tough sounding title and the fact that a guy named T.J. Storm headlines the thing that this would be ninety minutes of wall to wall ass kicking, the kind of B-grade straight to video martial arts film that can be a whole lot of fun if you're in the right mood for it. Unfortunately it does itself in by committing the ultimate B-movie sin... it veers off into the boredom zone.
But yeah, that story, it goes a little something like this... a tough guy with dreadlocks named Sizwe Biko (the aforementioned Mr. Storm) has to work with some bad guys in order to spring his dad who has landed in some serious hot water with the powers that be in South Africa. What do they want him to do? Smuggle some illegal black diamonds that he is then to trade for cold hard cash - that ought to set things right and help him pony up the scratch he needs to spring the man who brought him into this cold, cruel world.
Things go rather smoothly for Sizwe until he sets foot in there here United States where he hopes to complete the deal - shockingly, he finds himself set up, the victim of a double cross that, for lack of spoiling what little suspense there is in the last half of the movie, finds him having to fight lots of people. The guy who played Shang Tsung in Mortal Kombat shows up here as a tough guy named Goro but otherwise, things aren't really all that interesting.
To his credit, T. J. Storm has obviously got some pretty solid martial arts skills. I wouldn't want to fight the guy, he moves fast and with a fair bit of grace and style and when he goes at the bad guys, you just know they're going to be hurtin' bad for a while. He does have the makings of a solid action star and he's even got a bit of charisma that carries over to the scenes that don't require him to beat the snot out of people. Unfortunately the rest of the cast fails to follow suit. Granted, a lot of the actors in the film seem like they could very well have been amateurs and so with that in mind you're maybe not going to expect a Sir Lawrence Olivier caliber performance but there are so many long stretches of talk talk talk in the movie that maybe better casting could have helped. When you've got a couple of characters who are seemingly going into some sort of explanation/discussion that's integral to the understanding of the plot, having this ruined by people who aren't able to deliver their lines in a convincing manner takes things down quite a few pegs.
Yet still... there are those fight scenes. Aside from the fact that they could have been shot and edited a little more carefully than they were, they deliver a few mild thrills and are exciting enough when they actually occur. The problem there is that they don't occur often enough to really keep the movie going at a pace that most action fans are going to expect it to move. The end result is a movie with a messy plot and bad acting that doesn't offer up quite enough violence, action or suspense to overcome the negatives.
Black Cobra doesn't look all that amazing in 2.35.1 anamorphic widescreen on this DVD from Lionsgate, though much of that seems to have more to do with the way that the movie was shot than anything else. Colors often look very hot and detail tends to get a little smeared sometimes. There are some minor compression artifacts but minor is the key word there. There aren't any problems with print damage but this is just kind of a strange looking movie in general.
The only audio option on the disc is an English language Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound mix that does a decent job with rear channel effects and which spreads the score around well but which occasionally suffers from level jumps. For the most part though, it sounds pretty good and offers clear dialogue and pretty good sound effects.
Aside from a trailer for the feature and trailers for a few other Lionsgate properties, we get a few bloopers, a few deleted scenes and an alternate ending. Most of this stuff is fairly inconsequential but the alternate ending is moderately interesting. A behind the scenes featurette showcasing the fight choreography would have been a cool addition but that didn't happen. Static menus and chapter stops are also provided.
Black Cobra should have wound up a fun little b-action movie but that didn't happen. To his credit, T.J. Storm does a good job in the fight scenes, and those scenes are definitely the high points in the movie. A shame then that the plot drags and that the acting is as stiff as it is. Lionsgate's DVD looks alright and sounds quite good but doesn't offer up much in the way of substantial supplements. You can probably skip this one...
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.