Hall of Fame Speech #14: Cobra

Brief note before we start: last July we got together and worked out a third class to be inducted into the Smaddies Baddies BMT Hall of Fame. It has been nearly eight years since we started BMT and the films we had seen more than five years ago, in some cases, deserved a rewatch and reassessment. This is the fourth installment leading up to the sixth (eighth?) Smaddies Baddies bringing you previews and Hall of Fame Speeches for the five films chosen. There was a time in this world in which Sylvester Stallone was the biggest star in Hollywood. And one of his most iconic character was a tough as nails cop who took down the baddest of bad guys. No, not Judge Dredd, this one acted as judge, jury, and executioner for super criminals who terrorized innocent civilians. No, still not Judge Dredd. This guy was the law! NO STILL NOT JUDGE DREDD. We’re talking about Marion Cobretti, aka Cobra! Enjoy!

Hall of Fame Induction Speech for Cobra

Cobra fits into the Battlefield Earth mold of BMT films. If someone came to me and said “Hey, I’m trying to create a fun bad movie night for my friends. What do you recommend?” I would have Cobra on the list of solid choices. You’re not diving deep with something like Here on Earth where your friends and family will watch with concern as you roll on the floor laughing at Chris Klein dancing and stripping off his shirt. That’s our specific bad movie disease. This is the cure.

The top things I remembered from our first viewing:

  • It opens with a crazy 80’s super criminal grocery store hostage situation that basically sums up the film.
  • Sly Stallone cuts his pizza with a pair of scissors for reasons unknown.
  • Sly Stallone talks about other people’s dietary choices at least five times throughout the film. Lest you think this is a quirk of the script he also does this in the film Over the Top… so it’s all him, baby.
  • Brigitte Nielsen does a photo shoot or music video involving robots and it’s the most 80’s thing that has ever been created.
  • It is as far as I know the earliest example of a Secret Holiday Film as it very noticeably takes place during Christmas. Great answer for the question “What’s your favorite holiday film?”

I like to think that the most important aspect of the film is the Super Criminal idea. This is a pretty rare big budget film that allowed some of that grindhouse flavor leak into the stew. I specifically recall my mind being blown about what I was seeing on screen. The bad guy is an Unstoppable Force (complete with murderous crime spree through a hospital a la Halloween 2). He even speaks like the crazed student in Class of 1984, declaring himself the future, which is sure to be a bleak dystopia rules by super criminal sociopaths that cannot be controlled by normal cops who play by The Rulez. But Cobra don’t play by no Rulez. It has informed a huge part of the Bad Movie Twin lore.

As far as how the rewatch went this film really is special in that Tango & Cash kind of way. So earnest in what it set out to do. No sense of irony at all. Sly Stallone is cool. People step to him and he calmly rips their shirt and they’re like “oh shit, right. I respect this guy.” He lets people know that their diet is shit and they won’t ever be as ripped as he is even though he eats ‘za cut with scissors because he doesn’t have time or patience for a pizza cutter, bro. Brigitte Nielsen dances around with some robots and we aren’t supposed this think “ha, that’s funny.” We’re supposed to be like “that’s cool and hot and I have no chance with her, but Sly does.” The bad guys bang axes together, clench their teeth until sweat is popping out of their already popping veins, and look like crazed serial killers at all times. This wasn’t the age of the broken, damaged antihero. This was the age of Sly Stallone perfection against a gang of ruthless cult members overrunning a city.

Speaking of that it’s hard to talk wistfully about the age of the dystopian crimescape film, particularly when we’ve had to endure some particular horrid (and racist) examples of this like Death Wish. Once again we are treated to a hero who believes that you gotta shoot to kill to rid the streets of subhuman filth. Did they deserve to die? Of course. Didn’t you see how they were being criminals? This is obviously problematic on a whole bunch of levels. At least in this case you can cut Sly a little slack since the criminals he’s after are actually an insane cult and not just an extreme portrayal of gang crime run amok. In fact this cult seems to accept all ages and genders and the such. They simply believe themselves to be the next step in evolution. Unbeknownst to them they are simply a parasite and Sly is the exterminator.

Finally, as noted in what I remember about the film, this is a prime example of the Secret Holiday Film. Pretty much started that trend for us and it’s even more noticeable on a rewatch. Everything points to it being Xmas. What I didn’t totally remember was the extreme product placement. Sure we have Sly swigging a Coors in a grocery store before blowing away a bad guy. Make sense. He’s in a grocery store and cleaning up the streets makes one thirsty (I imagine). But why does our hero also endure a gigantic neon Pepsi sign glowing just outside his apartment? And being such a Pepsi head why doesn’t he say something when his partner sates his own thirst with a refreshing Coca-Cola. Need a place to rest? Lean against these boxes of 7up. You got time, right? Let’s treat you to an entire commercial for Toys-R-Us. It’s pretty impressive just how much they pack into a svelte 87 minute run time.

In conclusion, this film is fun. It is every Stallone film distilled into an easily digestible package. It’s like Tango & Cash except that film is actually good and this is for dumb people (and everyone needs to be dumb every once in a while). Battlefield Earth, Cobra, and The Wicker Man. That’s the trinity. In the name of John Travolta, Sly Stallone, and Nic Cage. Amen.

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