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Cobra (1986) Review

Action heroes are a somewhat forgotten piece of cinema. It’s sad to think that we don’t really have any staple heroes or villains of the genre. Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Chuck Norris and Bruce Willis all crafted careers for themselves out of the action genre throughout the 1980s. It’s hard not to look back on these with a glimmer of smugness, and with Cobra that comes into full effect. A forgotten piece of Stallone’s filmography, following his starring role as Marion Cobretti, a street cop hunting down a serial killer. 

It’s your very standard, American action film. A riff on the lone wolf hero of Dirty Harry or The Long Goodbye, a cop with his own agenda getting results in all the wrong ways. Cobra looks to play up the stereotype of a cop too cool for the system, and Stallone pulls this off tremendously well. A leather-clad officer with his own style of justice is such an overplayed piece of filmmaking, it’s rare to find a film that can justify the inclusion of such a leading character. Cobra manages to find a nice balance of decent enough acting from our leading man and a level-headedness that brings out the best in the action on display. 

The set design and clothing exude nothing but the period Cobra looks to drown itself in. Tightly fitted leather jackets, bright blue jeans and aviator sunglasses dominate the film, and Stallone’s leading performance is the prime example of this mesmerising design. If you’re a fan of 80s culture then Cobra is a surprising treat, a mismatch of iconography from the era while at the same time digging its claws into a fairly predictable and over the top storyline from years gone by.  

By far the biggest let-down is the villain, a forgettable mismatching of the hard as nails tone of the film paired with a Scooby-Doo like antagonist that doesn’t really sell the film all that well. A solid performance from Brian Thomspon is just enough to make it bearable, but there’s no depth or interest beyond the brief scenes of build-up in the first half-hour of the film. In fact, aside from Stallone’s leading performance, there aren’t really all that many interesting characters within. Bland supporting performers that come and go as they please, teetering on the edges of being interesting but never completely fulfilling the role.  

There’s a scene in this film where Sylvester Stallone cuts a pizza with a pair of scissors. By far one of the more grounded parts of this forgotten 80s action flick, Cobra is a flimsy story wrapped in some great action scenes and wobbly performances peppered in shlock and light-heartedness. It’s worth the watch if you find yourself in the need of a visual adrenalin boost, Stallone dominates som enjoyable scenes in a frankly underrated action flick.  

Ewan Gleadow
Ewan Gleadow
Editor in Chief at Cult Following | News and culture journalist at Clapper, Daily Star, NewcastleWorld, Daily Mirror | Podcast host of (Don't) Listen to This | Disaster magnet

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