Based loosely on a novel by Paula Gosling called Fair Game, Stallone had been working on 1984’s Beverly Hills Cop. He was slated to star in it and worked on the screenplay until the studio felt that some of the action scenes were too expensive. Stallone left, Eddie Murphy was cast and the movie was rewritten to suit him. Beverly Hills Cop was a huge hit for Murphy. Stallone took some his unused ideas from Beverly Hills Cop, worked them in Golsing’s novel and came up with Cobra.
The original cut of Cobra was about 40 minutes longer (with a run time of over two hours) with enough gore and violence that the MPAA gave the film the dreaded X-rating. After much cutting the mess that remains seems to be the only cut currently available although there is supposed to a work print out there that’s uncut. Cobra in it’s current state is a strange, bizarre, violent, incoherent and cliched action movie.
Stallone is Lieutenant Marion ‘Cobra’ Cobretti, a super tough cop who wears mirrored shades and has a match stick hanging out of his mouth. The film starts with a hostage situation at a grocery store and Cobra is called in the fix the situation. The bad guy at the supermarket belongs to a cult lead by the Night Slasher. Brigitte Nielsen has witnessed their murders so they are after her to kill her. Cobra is assigned to protect her. The gang attacks them several times leading to a giant showdown fight in a warehouse that is literally the definition of the steam and flame factory cliche that Roger Ebert used to write about all the time. Although this factory doesn’t seem to have any workers or actually manufacture anything but it sure does have a lot of sparks and open flames.
Stallone has lots of one-liners throughout the film but my favourite has it be just before his fight with The Night Slasher, one of the bad guy goons is underneath Stallone (Stallone is on a walkway). Stallone kicks over an open drum of flammable liquid onto the guy below. Despite the fact that there is clearly open flame on inches a way, Cobra finally lights the match from his mouth, tosses it and informs the bad guy “You have the right to remain…silent.” The bad guy goes up in flames.
There is a lot of weird moments in the film. At one point Cobra parks his car by squeezing into a spot too small for his classic car and merely pushes the car in front of him forward to make room pissing off the punk owner. The driver confronts Cobra only to have Cobra rip the driver’s shirt off and tell him “You need a new image.” Or the scene where Cobra goes home, takes out a box with a single slice of pizza, cuts a chunk off the scissors and eats it. Who eats pizza with scissors? Probably the strangest thing about the film is the fact that it was remade in 1995 as Fair Game with William Baldwin and Cindy Crawford. The evil cult is changed to evil ex-KGB gangster and the filmmakers managed to make an even lamer movie. One can only hope that no one else decides to adapt Paula Gosling’s novel. Still it might be interesting to see the original cut of Cobra, although another 40 minutes might be 40 minutes too long.