Reviewing a film like Cobra is an exercise in futility. Those who intended to see it will do so no matter what I say, and those who didn't will just nod and say to themselves, "yes, I thought so", hardly a reaction to get the critic's blood running faster. On the off chance that there are some people who have reservations about whether to see it, and are looking for some guidance, I will go ahead anyway.
For the few who haven't heard, Cobra is Sylvester Stallone's new film. In a word, it is precisely what one might have expected. Cobra is about a tough cop (nicknamed Cobra) who takes on a bunch of psychos who want to kill an innocent young woman. Sounds familiar? Yes, here we go again.
Cobra's screenplay is remarkably poor. It is little more than a series of vaguely connected incidents, and merely serves as an excuse to show Stallone kicking ass. Since Stallone wrote the screenplay, we can assume that the script does precisely what it set out to do. In the minimal dialog, Stallone's ability to suggest character peaks out once or twice, but that's about all. The story makes very little sense. Are the bad guys crazies or terrorists? If the former, how come so many of them are cooperating? If the latter, why do they have such an inane purpose? (We are told very little of what their purpose is, actually; Stallone views little details like that as irrelevant.) Why the LA police department buys Stallone's lame plan to catch the villains is also a mystery, as is just about everything else. All in all, the script is a total loss.
George Cosmatos doesn't offer much help from a directorial standpoint, either. He was last seen directing traffic in Lumbar: Lotsa Blood II. Apparently that experience caused him to have a nervous breakdown. (Probably all those explosions.) I can find no more charitable explanation for his handling of Cobra. He intercuts flashes of irrelevant material, he shows no ability to pace his film at all, and, on the rare occasion that the editor permits him to perform a camera move, it is clumsy and pointless.
If anyone was in charge of Cobra, it would seem to be the editor, which is not to say that Cobra is well edited. Don Zimmerman does a serviceable job in action sequences, though he doesn't get as much out of them as he should. Those sequences aside, the other twenty minutes of the movie are a mess. Cobra has no overall coherence. One scene does not connect with the next. Zimmerman could literally have shuffled around most of the major sequences and the audience wouldn't have noticed. Director, writer, and editor share in the blame here.
And what of the acting? Stallone is Stallone, not as angry as Rambo but not as sweet as Rocky, placing him in the middle of his two note acting scale. Brigitte Nielsen has climbed up from the abyss of her performance in Red Sonja, and now approaches the thespic abilities of Mamie Van Doren. Reni Santoni is acceptable as the obligatory partner, whose main function is to listen to Stallone's one liners. The villains, cast for their resemblence to known actors, it seems, are Hollywood competent.
The only good thing to be said for the music is that Stallone didn't let his brother write a song for the film, this time. Music is used like a hammer in Cobra. I sort of hoped that, after disposing of all the other bad guys, Cobra would shoot Sylvester Levay, the composer.
Cobra has fairly good action sequences, it must be admitted. They aren't exceptional, and they aren't very well filmed, but the do have some force to them. Cosmatos and Zimmerman show too much fondness for Friday the 13th style cutting, which provides the film with a few shocks but no suspense. Most of the violence looks too utterly unreal to truly excite the spectator. Add in the fact that we know with utter certain that neither Stallone nor Nielsen will come to harm, and what you've got is bloody, live action Road Runner cartoons. Some of it has a nasty sadistic feel, but that will be no surprise to most.
As is the custom in Stallone's films, he throws in some sermons. In this case, they concern law and order, and what a shame it is that cops aren't allowed to "do their job", which Stallone seems to regard as shooting anyone who they think has committed a crime. However, Cobra doesn't offer any solutions to the problems it raises, unless you count the idea that the right thing to do with crazed killers is to lure them into attacking Sylvester Stallone. There may be those among Mr. Stallone's critics who would consider this a very fine idea, but I personally believe that it runs into practical difficulties.
Cobra is bad movie making. It is utterly derivative, poorly constructed, indifferently acted, not terribly exciting, and of dubious moral quality. It should make a few hundred million. There are vast numbers of people out there who will put down five dollars if you guarantee them that they will see Sylvester Stallone whupping folks who he has identified as bad guys, and lord knows that Cobra provides that. Nothing more, though. Now we can all look forward to Sly's next magnum opus, his arm wrestling movie. Coming for Christmas - make your plans to sleep out for the opening early!
Back to the review list.