In 1986, George P. Cosmatos reunited with mega-action star Sylvester Stallone for Cobra, a follow-up after their 1985 Rambo sequel First Blood Part II. Written by Stallone and based on the novel by Paula Gosling, Cobra follows the exploits of street cop Marion Cobretti – shortened to Cobra because it sounds cooler and he’s got a cobra emblem on his gun – as he embroils himself in an investigation into the infamous Night Slasher (Brian Thompson), whose identity has been espied by model Ingrid (Brigitte Nielsen). And since Cobra is obviously the man for the job, Stallone’s character shoots, drives, knifes, and explodes his way through various obstacle courses as he works to protect Ingrid, take down the Night Slasher, and also corral an entire cult deemed the New Order.
Cobra is quite clearly a brash late-80s action romp, and it’s got all of the setpieces one would expect. Neon city atmospheres, dingy street buildings, and even a steel foundry all make their appearances as backdrops where Stallone can kick some bad guy ass. Also in the vein of Death Wish, Cobra is seemingly the only guy on the force who actually wants to do anything about the rampant crime that has spread throughout the streets, caused by a very unclear cult called the New Order who want to kill the weak. Cobra has little time for characterization or even plot itself; while the original cut was reportedly over two hours (with an existing workprint showcasing more violence that was cut to reduce the film from an X rating), most of the storyline has been chopped to shreds in favor of multiple chase sequences and a thrilling fisticuffs battle near vats of fire. Cobra as a character isn’t difficult to understand, because he’s testosterone personified. But the rest of the cast, including the Night Slasher and his New Order motorcycle henchmen, are left to the viewer to interpret. As such, there’s not much to glean from their presence.
Still, the lack of plot just means that Stallone gets more time to beat the snot out of people. It starts with an exciting supermarket confrontation that sets up Cobra’s less-than-by-the-book approach to law enforcement, and it ramps up from there. A ridiculous car chase sequence sees Cobra smashing up his cherished car in a number of unrealistic jumps that make no sense but look extremely cool. There’s a neon fight sequence lit by a Pepsi sign that vaporwave fans should love. A number of motorcycle-related crashes and two blown-up oil tankers later and the audience no longer needs to wonder why Nielsen’s character Ingrid would fall for Cobra: he’s hotter than the unstruck match he keeps in his mouth.
Cobra will appeal to anyone who loves the over-the-top action films of the ’80s. It’s not a particularly good film, but it is entirely entertaining, occasionally hilarious thanks to Stallone’s less than stellar dialogue writing, and visually appealing. It also showcases why Stallone became such a hot commodity at the time; despite his aloof acting, he still has an alluring quality with all of his characters, perhaps even more pronounced in Cobra due to the lack of character development.
Shout! Factory have given Cobra a new Collector’s Edition Blu-ray release which has already seen a bit of controversy. Warner Brothers released the film on Blu-ray in 2011 which has a decidedly cooler color than Shout!’s new Blu-ray. This one features pinker hues, which can occasionally become quite heavy in particular scenes. Many commenting on the pink hues have not actually seen the Blu-ray in motion, just screenshots of the stills – and from what I can tell, the pink hues are much less noticeable while watching the film itself. The warmer colors do make sense in most of the film as well, since Cobra does have a vibrant neon city aesthetic and an aforementioned fight scene does take place in front of a neon lit Pepsi sign. While it is possible that Shout! has gone a little wild with exaggerating the pink color tweaking a bit, this hue does seem correct to me over the blander Warner Brothers entry. However, this is truly going to be a case of preference to the viewer.
Otherwise the picture quality is fairly good, with a heavier grain element and occasional streaky image. Shout! states that this is a new 2k scan of original film elements, with interior description stating it is an archival interpositive; Cobra could perhaps look a little better, and this version doesn’t seem to be a huge step up in quality from Warner Brothers’ disc, but it is an improvement nonetheless.
Audio is presented in both 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio and 2.0, both of which sound fine with no issues to speak of. English subtitles are included, and one minor caveat is that at times the spoken dialogue differs from the subtitle. It seems like Shout! may have taken the dialogue from the script itself and some of the spoken dialogue was changed a bit.
Extra features do lift this Collector’s Edition well above the Warner Brothers release, because Shout! collects those previous features – an audio commentary from George P. Cosmatos, a short behind-the-scenes featurette, and theatrical trailer – on this release as well as providing their own extra interviews. The new interviews include a 26 minute discussion with Brian Thompson about his character the Night Slasher, who seems to have mixed feelings about his time on set, especially with Stallone; a 20+ minute chat with Marco Rodriguez who played the opening scene’s bad guy, talking about his memories of the performance and the thematic representation of grocery store food; a 14 minute interview with Andrew Robinson, discussing his character Detective Monte; a short sub-10 minute talk with Lee Garlington, who reminisces about a somewhat embarrassing scene with Stallone that occurs at the end of the film; and a short 7 minute talk with Art LaFleur, who can basically be summed up as enjoying everything about the film. Still galleries and a teaser trailer are also included, as well as an interior full-color still on the opposite side of the cover art.
There are two disappointing elements to this release. One is that Shout! was unable to get Stallone for an interview. The other is that it seems like Shout! missed an opportunity to include the workprint of Cobra, which is only mentioned in passing in most of the interviews.
Cobra is an insanely fun action flick featuring Sylvester Stallone. Scream Factory have provided a good 2k scan that may turn some buyers off due to pinker hues differing from a previous Warner Brothers release, though the extras do make this worth a purchase for those who don't mind it.