In our regular polarising-opinion series, one Total Film writer argues that Sly Stallone’s Cobra doesn’t get the credit it deserves.
Read on, and let us know if you agree with the argument put forward by having your say in the comments section below.
Is it just me? … Or is Cobra the best cop flick of the ‘80s? asks Martyn Conterio
The ‘80s was a golden age for the maverick cop. In police procedurals that paid little attention to procedure - because that’s how those loose cannons with a badge rolled – the likes of Dirty Harry, Martin Riggs and John McClane were anointed screen icons. Cobra, Sly Stallone’s 1986 take on the outsider hero despatching society’s trash to the morgue, is that celebrated era’s forgotten son.
Time can be a good friend to the misunderstood movie, and director George P. Cosmatos’ handsome thriller is crying out like a Robert Tepper power ballad for a second chance. Action-packed, beautifully crafted and gorgeously photographed in ways that makes others of its ilk look bland, Cobra must step out of history’s shadow and take its rightful place beneath the neon light. Lt. Marion Cobretti (aka ‘The Cobra’) is the guy those LAPD weaklings rely on when jams truly get tight. And the guy wouldn’t be worth his maverick salt if he didn’t opt to tackle the scum of Los Angeles in an over-the-top manner that annoyed the usual collection of lily-livered liberals, the pencil pushers down at City Hall and his standard-issue disgruntled captain.
Take, for example, Cobra’s introductory scene. Rocking up to a supermarket stick-up in a super-charged 1950 Mercury (complete with personalised plates that read ‘AWSOM 50’); he enters the deadly fray like it’s no biggie and all in a day’s pay cheque. Such tough-guy bravado is a staple of the genre, but there is irony and self-deprecation at work in Cobra that takes the edge off the macho BS. After all, Stallone gave his character a girl’s name - a detail that’s brought up more than once.
Cobra, once inside the joint, cracks open a Coors, takes a “quick slurp” as TV chef Keith Floyd used to charmingly put it, then lobs the frosty brew at a shotgun-wielding lunatic as a tool of distraction. “You’re a disease and I’m the cure,” Cobretti informs the goon before knifing him in the heart. For extra kill points and in making sure the cretin is definitely toast, he gives him a belly full of lead.
Thanks to the trendy clobber, snazzy automobile and preference for chewing on toothpicks, Cobra is arguably cinema’s first popinjay, hipster cop. Seriously: the guy lives to be different from all the rest. He is achingly cool. If he were around today, the man would moonlight as a Vice magazine columnist. I imagine he’d write about weekends spent at racing-club meets, car shows and advising readers on the best way to cut the unwanted crust off a slice of pizza. (If you want to pay homage to the scene in the film, use a pair of scissors.)
The obsession with aesthetics reaches the level of fetish when it comes to gunplay. Cobra wouldn’t be Cobra without his pearl-handled Colt Gold Cup National Match with the custom-built 9mm chamber. And when he isn’t dropping fools with that weapon of choice, he opts for the Jatimatic submachine gun with the laser sighting. A sublime exercise in pure action cinema, Cobra is the true king of ’80s cop flicks. Or is it just me?
Agree or disagree with Martyn’s argument? Hit the comments section below to add your view!