Review: Cobra (1986)

Cobra (1986)

Directed by: George P. Cosmatos | 87 minutes | action, crime | Actors: Sylvester Stallone, Brigitte Nielsen, Reni Santoni, Andrew Robinson, Brian Thompson, John Herzfeld, Lee Garlington, Art LaFleur, Marco Rodríguez, Ross St. Phillip, Val Avery, David Rasche

Few genre films are as much a product of their time as films of the 1980s. The 1980s were the years of prosperity and excesses, and of the conservative revolution in the United States. It’s not for nothing that the classic 80s hero is one of the common people: the hardworking man who puts things in order when the government fails. So is Sylvester Stallone as the headstrong police officer Marion Cobretti in the cult classic ‘Cobra’.

Cobretti has little interest in procedures and bureaucracy. “You’re the disease, I’m the cure”, he growls early in the film to a hostage taker. When a journalist asks him why he doesn’t respect the rights of criminals, an enraged Cobretti drags him to a killed hostage: if he wants to tell the family too. Later, he complains about judges releasing the criminals he incarcerates. There is, of course, a prominent photo of Ronald Reagan at the police station. The tone has thus been set: ‘Cobra’ is a film of feeling. Cobretti does what we would all like to do, although of course we know that it is actually not possible and allowed. There’s nothing wrong with that per se – these kinds of films are an escape from the complicated and sometimes frustrating world we live in. Anyone who has ever been a victim of a crime knows how tempting it is to fantasize about catching the perpetrators one-handed. We like to put ourselves in the shoes of action heroes like Stallone.

‘Cobra’ is not lacking in spectacular chases, shootings and improbable victories of the muscle bundle Stallone, neatly suspended from a well-organized story about Cobretti who has to protect a witness against a gang of criminals. However, it is all over very quickly – the film barely makes it to an hour and a half of playing time. At the time, the film was shortened at the eleventh hour so that it could run more often in the cinema, and that is unfortunately noticeable. But that shouldn’t spoil the fun: the smooth story and a large stock of classic Stallone moments give ‘Cobra’ a nice dose of 80s nostalgia.

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