30 Years of Cobra

1986 was a huge year for cinema. Now, read our celebration of Cobra's anniversary. 

On May 23rd thirty years ago, we were treated to the Cannon Films produced release of Cobra starring Sylvester Stallone. He portrays Lieutenant Marion “Cobra” Cobretti, a tough as nails, take-no-crap type of cop that is out to find a serial killer nicknamed the Night Slasher. The Night Slasher is part of a cult group that is going around and murdering people in order to create some type of new world. When a woman witnesses them during a murder, they set out to eliminate her and the only person who can protect her is Cobretti.

This is the embodiment of everything that made up an entertaining action film from the 1980’s. Don’t expect any deep messages or strong character development, everyone in this is pretty much one-dimensional. Stallone’s Cobra just barely starts to become something more than a card board cut out through the 84 minute running time. But does any of that really matter? How many viewers went into this or any other Stallone motion picture expecting an Oscar performance and award winning filmmaking? The answer is no one.

What audiences were expecting were the typical action genre tropes and lots of excitement. And this one delivers. The pacing is fast and the story consistently moves in order to prevent any lulls in the action.  The opening sequence lays out Stallone’s character and the strange cult that we never fully get any major reasoning behind their motivations, except that they might just simply be crazy. There’s a man wiping out people with a shotgun in a supermarket so the cops call in Cobra. He shows up in his cool grey 1950 Mercury with a license plate that says “Awsom50,” stepping out of the car with a match in his mouth, black sunglasses, a black jacket, and a gun with a cobra symbol on it. He walks into the grocery store, delivers some classic one liners and blows away the bad guy.

From there it’s pretty much non-stop intensity as he battles this large group of cultists. There is an excellent long car chase scene that includes Stallone doing a 180 turn in the car and firing a machine gun out of the window, and plenty of crashes and explosions. The final battle sequence is huge and involves multiple environments, another chase scene involving motorcycles, loads of bullets and bodies flying, motorcycles crashing all over the place, plenty of explosions, and it all ends in a very hot metal melting factory.

Originally the picture was supposed to run at least 2 hours long, but it was cut down in order to get more cinematic releases each day in order to take on Top Gun. This worked out as it would beat out Top Gun as the number one movie on the first weekend it was released. It didn’t end up helping its overall box office numbers, finishing at number 15 in domestic gross for 1986 at just under $50 million dollars. A bootleg work print of the original cut has surfaced off and on as a bootleg, but it has never officially been released fully uncut. It did influence director Nicholas Winding Refn, who had Ryan Gosling use the match gimmick in Drive.

If you like Stallone, Schwarzenegger, and other action flicks from the 1980’s, then there is no reason that you wouldn’t find this one to be a fun ride. 

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-Raul VanTassle