Cobra: Collector’s Edition
10 to Midnight: Collector’s Edition
Directed by: George P. Cosmatos and J. Lee Thompson (respectively)
Run time: 87 minutes and 102 minutes
The Lowdown: First things first, I would like to be the first to start the bandwagon in support of declaring Sylvester Stallone’s 1986 trigger-happy action-slasher Cobra as a bona fide Christmas movie.
Seriously, if Die Hard can do it, so can Cobra.
Consider the following:
Cobra opens magnificently, cutting back and forth between a creepy cult of killers and criminals clanging axes together in a subterranean tunnel and everyday citizens out shopping at a grocery store selling Christmas trees and decorations!
An early victim is given the chance to escape by the deranged shooter, but he gets a shotgun blast to the back, which sends him careening into a Christmas tree display!
A short time later, there’s a commercial for, you guessed it, Christmas on TV.
And, later in the film, another innocent victim is killed while carrying a bottle of booze wrapped as an Xmas present.
All right, enough holly jolly lobbying. Let’s get to the good stuff.
For those not in the know, Cobra is one of the greatest, if most ridiculous, police action thrillers of the 1980's. It’s basically Stallone’s Dirty Harry meets Mad Max with a little Invasion USA thrown in for good measure.
It’s also a fascinating socio-political statement by Stallone on gun rights and the criminal justice system, arriving just as the Reagan era started to wind down.
Stallone’s Marion Cobretti is a shoot first, shoot second, shoot third then ask questions kind of renegade super-cop who only gets unleashed by his police captain when the city is faced with the worst of the worst.
He’s so badass, they call his division the Zombie Squad.
Cobretti argues with the press after gunning down a bad guy. “Did he have to die?” a reporter asks. Cobretti grabs him and shoves his face down toward a victim. “Tell that to his family!”
Cobretti rails against the justice system that keeps releasing dangerous felons back into society. “We put them away, they let them go!”
And he threatens some of the bad guys he catches with his own brand of judge/jury/executioner justice: “This is where the law stops…and I start, sucker!”
Yes, it’s a grotesque display of excessive force, a painful reminder that the “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot,” fears and distrust sown throughout certain minority communities today has basically been used as a plot device and character trait of Hollywood heroes for decades, but the irony in Cobra is that despite violating every basic civil right of every person he kills, Cobretti isn’t a random killing machine or an advocate for widespread civil unrest and militia-style justice.
Stallone doesn’t appear to be arguing to let everyone have access to massive firepower, just law enforcement, and only to eradicate the cellar-dwelling scum who kill innocent people, the kind of sow-disorder maniacs he believes aren’t deserving of being judged by the law.
We could argue and debate whether it’s a well-thought-out stance, but why bother, Cobra also is not a very deep-thinking flick. It’s a riotous roller-coaster of adrenaline, packed with nitrous-infused cars, insane chases (Stallone launches his custom car through a boat) and truly funny one-liners.
At one point, his partner, Gonzales (Reni Santoni), says, “Did you find out anything new?” To which, Cobretti responds, “Since you were in the bathroom? No, not really.”
Or when Ingrid (Brigitte Nielsen), the uber-hot fashion model being chased by the killer cult-y New World Order, criticizes Cobretti. “What’s wrong with you? You look so mad,” she says. “I always look this way before breakfast,” Cobretti replies.
The film is pure escapist entertainment done right.
Cobra also makes one other thing crystal clear: Between this and his Rocky franchise, Stallone singlehandedly defined what has now become a cinematic staple – the musical training/investigating/brooding montage – and for a brief while in the ‘80s, he found the perfect accomplice in soundtrack singer extraordinaire Robert Tepper.
Of course, by 1986, a character like Cobretti was nothing that audiences hadn’t seen before, in dozens of iterations, whether embodied by Clint Eastwood or Burt Reynolds or Mr. Majestyk himself, Charles Bronson, who made a career out of portraying such law-breaking antiheroes for decades.
Bronson’s prolific output included 10 shoot-em-up pictures from 1980 to 1989, six of those in partnership with director J. Lee Thompson, the best of which, hands-down, is 1983’s 10 to Midnight.
Bronson’s Leo Kessler is a jaded, angry Los Angeles homicide detective willing to bend and/or break due process if it means putting a psychopath down. Gene Davis is Warren Stacy, a thoroughly twisted serial killer steeped in bizarre and eccentric mannerisms (he strips nude before killing his prey) that he constantly invokes Patrick Bateman a full 17 years before American Psycho showcased meme-worthy slaughter set to pop music.
(One of the best special features included on the 10 to Midnight: Collector’s Edition disc is a new interview with genre icon Andrew Stevens, where he shares creepy tidbits like the fact that Davis went full-method in his portrayal, walking around set completely nude at all times.)
10 to Midnight is a stellar police action thriller, possibly one of Bronson’s top-five best films, and a long overlooked gem from the early days of ‘80s actioners. The supporting cast reads like an Honor Roll of that decades most recognizable stars, including Lisa Eilbacher (Beverly Hills Cop), Geoffrey Lewis, Wilford Brimley and Kelly Preston.
Kudos to Shout! Factory for reminding action fans that decades before massive stunts and computer-generated mayhem defined this genre, and overshadowed the human element, the best examples of cult cinema were fueled by larger-than-life personalities taking out the trash, one deranged bad guy at a time.
The Stuff You Care About:
Hot chicks – Oh yes. From Brigitte Nielsen to Lisa Eilbacher, it’s a who’s-who of 80’s hotties.
Nudity – Yes.
Gore – Yes.
Drug use – No.
Bad Guys/Killers – It really is a toss-up who is creepier, Brian Thompson’s near mute cult leader in Cobra or Gene Davis’s naked serial killer in 10 to Midnight.
Buy/Rent – Buy them both.
Dis (Unearthed Films, 60 minutes, Unrated, Blu-Ray): What is Dis?
Dis is a grown-up nightmare brought to life, a twisted fable designed to ensure adults never sleep through the night.
Dis is lots of bodily fluids, which are used to create some kind of life force, I think.
Dis is gratuitous nudity and gore, both artistic and erotic.
Dis is a visual eyegasm of psycho-sexual imagery told in three parts.
And then, it just ends.
What is Dis? I honestly don’t have a fucking clue, but you should find it and watch it as soon as possible. Maybe then you can tell me, what is Dis.
Johnny English Strikes Again
Dirty Rotten Scoundrels: Collector’s Edition
Waterworld: Limited Edition
I Am Not a Witch
Not to be Overlooked:
Wronged (Indican Pictures, 91 minutes, Unrated, Video-on-Demand): Speaking of brutal grown-up nightmares, writer-director Nicholas Holland's retro-exploitation survival thriller Wronged starts with a premise that would make most parents cringe -- a family overcome with grief following an unexpected miscarriage are advised by a therapist to take their other kids out for some R&R camping and bonding in a remote forest -- and then piles onto their tragedy by introducing a very real new threat that just might doom them all.