Cobra (1986 film)

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Against a red backdrop, Stallone dressed in black, holding a large gun, wearing sunglasses, and with a toothpick in his mouth.
Theatrical release poster
Directed by George P. Cosmatos
Produced by Menahem Golan
Yoram Globus
Screenplay by Sylvester Stallone
Based on Fair Game 
by Paula Gosling
Starring Sylvester Stallone
Brigitte Nielsen
Reni Santoni
Andrew Robinson
Brian Thompson
Art LaFleur
Lee Garlington
Music by Various artists
Cinematography Ric Waite
Edited by James R. Symons
Don Zimmerman
The Cannon Group
Distributed by Warner Bros.
Release date(s) May 23, 1986 (1986-05-23)
Running time 87 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $25 million
Box office $160,000,000 (Worldwide)

Cobra is a 1986 American action thriller film directed by George P. Cosmatos, and written by Sylvester Stallone, who also starred in the title role. The film co-stars Reni Santoni, Brigitte Nielsen and Andrew Robinson.[1] The film received negative reviews, with much criticism focused on the overuse of genre tropes, yet it debuted at the number one spot on the U.S. box office and became a financial success.[2]

The film was loosely based on the novel Fair Game by Paula Gosling, which was later filmed under that title in 1995. However, Stallone's screenplay was originally conceived from ideas he had during pre-production of Beverly Hills Cop, whose screenplay he heavily revised. He had wanted to make Beverly Hills Cop a less comedic and more action-oriented film, which the studio rejected as being far too expensive. When he left that project, Eddie Murphy was brought in to play the lead role.[3]


Marion Cobretti, codenamed "Cobra", is from a division of the Los Angeles Police Department known as the "Zombie Squad". He is called to a hostage situation at a grocery store when negotiations fail. Cobretti kills the gunman, but before his death the criminal speaks of the 'New Order': a group of social darwinist psychopaths that despise modern society and believe in killing the weak, leaving only the strongest and smartest to rule the world.

As the bodies are removed from the supermarket, Cobretti is admonished by Detective Monte for his seeming disregard for police procedures and protocols. Harassed by reporters, Cobretti admonishes them for failing to put the safety of potential victims first. What no one realizes at the time is that the supermarket event is only one of a string of recent and seemingly unconnected acts of violence and murder that have broken loose in Los Angeles, perpetrated by the same supremacist group the supermarket gunman mentioned.

After witnessing several individuals going on a spree killing, including New Order leader 'The Night Slasher', model Ingrid Knudsen becomes the target of the group because as the only living witness to their crimes. After an attempt on her life, she is placed under the protective custody of Cobretti and his partner, Sergeant Tony Gonzales. Several more attempts are made on their lives by various people. Cobretti theorizes that there is an entire army of killers operating with the same modus operandi rather than a lone serial killer with some associates, but his suggestion is rebuffed by his superiors. However, the LAPD agrees with Cobretti that it will be safest if he and Knudsen relocate from the city.

Cobretti becomes romantically involved with Ingrid shortly after venturing out into the countryside, but one of the Order's leaders (a police officer escorting the Cobretti party) reveals the location of their whereabouts. Despite Cobretti's suspicions and mistrust of the officer, he does nothing and stays the night in a motel. The Order moves in at dawn and besieges the small town. With barely enough time to react, the attackers storm Cobretti and Ingrid's motel, wounding Gonzales in the process. Killing several members but with more swarming into the town, Cobretti and Ingrid escape in a pickup truck. After the truck becomes severely damaged, the two travel on foot into a lemon grove and escape into a nearby derelict factory.

Cobretti has most of the Order killed by this point, but there are still a few members who follow them into the building. After eliminating every member except for the Night Slasher himself, he and Cobretti engage in a deadly hand-to-hand duel inside the steel mill, ending with the Night Slasher being impaled in the back by a large roaming hook and burned alive by Cobretti.

In the aftermath, Cobretti's department arrives and begins clean-up of the town, giving medical aid to Gonzales. Detective Monte appears apologetic but confronts Cobretti again about his lack of regard to police protocols, offering to discuss the issue over a long dinner. Cobretti punches Monte instead, and the ending credits begin as Cobretti and Ingrid climb onto one of the motorcycles left by the Order and ride away.



When Sylvester Stallone was signed to play the lead in Beverly Hills Cop, he decided to rewrite the script almost completely, removing much of the comedic aspects and turning it into an action movie he felt was better suited to him. The studio read his revised script and rejected it, citing action scenes that were far beyond what their projected budget would allow for. Stallone eventually left Beverly Hills Cop and channeled his ideas for that movie into an original script. The novel Fair Game by Paula Gosling was cited as source material, enough so that she received a screen credit; after the film's premiere Stallone allegedly wanted a reissue of the novel with himself credited as author, but Gosling refused.

The first rough cut of the movie was over two hours long (the closest estimated original running time is 130 minutes). It was then shortened to a roughly two hour director's cut which was intended to be released in theaters. However, after Top Gun became a smash hit, Stallone and Warner Bros. were worried that Cobra - which would premiere the following week - would be overshadowed, so in order to ensure at least one extra screening each day the movie was heavily re-edited. Stallone removed much of the plot and scenes involving characters other than his own. Warner Bros. also demanded that the more graphic scenes be cut down or removed entirely because they were "too intense," and that some action scenes be cut for pacing.

When first submitted to the MPAA the film received an X rating, necessitating even more cuts. The full extent of the censorship is unknown, but based on director Costamos's commentary and several other sources, some of the cut scenes include:

  • The first murder victim having her throat cut and hands severed;
  • More dead bodies in the autopsy scene, including lingering shots of naked and mutilated bodies of murdered women;
  • An extended death scene for Ingrid's photographer Dan, in which he is hit several more times with axes and attempts to escape, only to slip and fall in his own blood before being finished off;
  • Hospital scene in which Nightslasher tries to kill Ingrid was cut down for pacing and because of the violence. Death scenes of janitor and nurse were originally shown onscreen and there was also additional murder scene where Nightslasher kills police officer who was guarding Ingrid. In the later scene where Cobretti and Gonzales are taking Ingrid out of the hospital and when Cobretti talks with Monte, part where officer's death is mentioned was cut to avoid continuity mistake, which is why there is some bad editing in that scene;
  • More scenes of the townspeople being killed during the climax, including a scene in which one is hit in the face with ax; two of these death scenes appeared in 1990's TV versions of the film, but with most of the more graphic shots removed;
  • Graphic close-ups of the Night Slasher's wound after he is impaled on the hook; Cobretti repeatedly pulls him down while Nightslasher screams in pain.

Besides these cuts, a few scenes in which the Night Slasher and his gang are killing people were slowed down, while some of the shootouts which were originally in slow-motion were instead played at normal speed.

Eventually, the movie received an R rating and was released in theaters with a running time of 84 minutes, approximately 50 minutes shorter than the first assembly cut and 30 to 40 minutes shorter than the director's cut.

Much of David Rasche's role was cut from the movie. In the behind-the-scenes making of documentary available on DVD/Bluray, an additional (deleted) scene with him and Brigitte Nielsen is shown being filmed.

The car chase between Cobretti and the Night Slasher was originally longer and ended differently. In the theatrical version Nightslasher shoots at Cobretti's car and causes him to crash into the boat. In the original version Night Slasher and his driver are the first ones who crash into the boat; Cobretti fails to stop his car in time and crashes into them. Shots of Night Slasher's car turning around and him breathing in relief after Cobra crashes his car were taken from an earlier part of the chase and the shot of Cobretti seeing the boat before he crashes into it was filmed and added later. In the theatrical version, Night Slasher's crashed car is still visible in scene where Cobretti crashes into the boat.

In first cut of the movie, there was a slightly different version of confrontation scene between Nightslasher and Cobretti. Instead of more intense version that was ultimately used with more dialogue between Cobretti and Nightslasher, in earlier version Cobretti shows up right after Nightslasher screams "We are the future" and with relaxed, almost smiling look on his face he repeats the same line he said in the opening grocery store shootout scene "You're the disease, and i'm the cure". Instead of saying entire dialogue how murder is against the law and that Cobretti is gonna have to arrest him if he can, Nightslasher simply looks at Cobra with surprised, shocked look on his face and right when Cobra is about to shoot him Stalk appears and jumps on Cobra only to get shot by Nightslasher. There is a noticeable continuity mistake in the final version of the scene though; when Stalk jumps on Cobra there is a fire behind him but in all previous shots of him holding the Nightslasher at gunpoint and saying his dialogue there is no fire behind him, that's because this scene was re-shot at different location.

Official soundtrack release includes track called "Skyline" which is not heard anywhere in the movie. This is because scenes in which this track was used were cut out from the movie during the re-editing. Originally there was a scene in which Cobretti is sitting in his home, looking at sunset (there is a similar scene in the beginning of theatrical version in which he is cleaning up his gun and then looks at streets outside his house) and soon, right after Nightslasher and his gang members killed second victim and cops show up at the scene, Cobretti gets the call from his police chief or somebody else to go and meet up with them and it is in this scene where "Skyline" track is heard. "Skyline" track was also originally used in some other scenes, including the ending but from some reason it was removed and replaced with song "Voice Of America's Sons" by John Cafferty.

Although no uncut version or director's cut has ever seen an official release, a timecoded workprint sourced from poor quality VHS copies is available as a bootleg. It contains all of the X rated scenes and uncut action sequences, along with scenes explaining the motives of the New Order gang, focusing on characters such as Nightslasher and Stalk, alternate lines of dialogue and a temporary score which contains some of the songs and music from the theatrical version and pieces of scores from other movies.


Cobra was at its time, a critical failure; as of 2013, the website Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a score of 13% based on reviews from 16 critics.[4]

The TV Guide stated that "Stallone's character is an empty hulk...the few attempts to provide us with little insights into his character are downright laughable."[5] The New York Times opined that the film "pretends to be against the wanton violence of a disintegrating society, but it's really the apotheosis of that violence." The critic also stated that it "shows such contempt for the most basic American values".[6]

In a retrospective review, Scott Weinberg of remarked that the movie was worth "seeing only in a 'depressing time capsule' sort of way."[4]

Cobra was nominated for six Razzie Awards, including Worst Picture, Worst Actor (Sylvester Stallone), Worst Actress (Brigitte Nielsen), Worst Supporting Actor and Worst New Star (both for Brian Thompson) and Worst Screenplay.[7]

Box office[edit]

Cobra debuted at No.1 at the box office and was a huge financial success, with a Memorial Day weekend debut of $15.6 million.[2] It eventually went on to gross roughly $160 million, over six times its estimated $25 million budget.


  • Originally, movie was to be filmed in Seattle and entire motorcycle chase scene in the ending was to take place at night on a ferry between the islands, but Stallone ordered for ending to be changed because of the mosquito problem at that time which would made night time filming very difficult to endure.
  • In the original script, Nightslasher was called Abaddon.
  • In the scene where Nightslasher says his long monologue right before his fight with Cobra, actor Brian Thompson had to do that scene with script girl because Stallone was watching the basketball game on TV.
  • Brian Thompson auditioned seven times for his role before he was hired. On fourth audition he met Stallone and both he and director thought that Thompson was too nice to play the role of Nightslasher. But after screen test, he immediately got the job.

Thompson repeatedly asked Stallone about his character Nightslasher, like how Stallone would want Thompson to play him, character's background, his reasons for doing what he's doing... but Stallone wasn't interested in explaining Thompson's character and he basicaly told him that he is evil because he is evil. In an unfortunate surprise for Thompson, when filming of the movie was finished, director Cosmatos told Thompson, with no reason; " You could have been good if you have listened to me."

  • Nobody of the minor cast was allowed to talk to Stallone during filming.
  • One time during filming, Stallone complained to cinematographer Ric Waite that they are falling behind and that he should push his crew to work more and harder. Waite's answer on Stallone's order was quite surprising. He basically told Stallone that if he stops "playing around" on set with Brigitte, gets his hands off her ass and stops showing off to his bodyguards, maybe they wouldn't have problems with time. Although Stallone was shocked that somebody would talk to him that way, he did behave for about three weeks and then returned to his old ego fueled behaviour. Waite said in interview that despite his huge ego Stallone had a great sense of humor, and he also confirmed famous rumour that Stallone was actually the one who was giving orders during filming and that he was the one who directed Cobra behind the scenes, because, in Waite's words, credited director of the movie George P. Cosmatos was good producer, but bad director.[8]
  • Although it's looked back on as a flop, Cobra (1986) grossed $12,653,032 on its opening weekend, which was the largest opening weekend in the history of Warner Brothers up to that point.
  • There were plans to do a sequel which never materialized.
  • The movie was based on a novel "Fair Game" by Paula Gosling. In 1995 William Baldwin and Cindy Crawford made Fair Game (1995), which was also based on the same novel by Gosling.
  • Stan Bush song "The Touch" from The Transformers: The Movie (1986) was originally written for Cobra.
  • The custom 1950 Mercury driven by Cobretti in the film was a car actually owned by star Sylvester Stallone. The studio produced stunt doubles of the car for use in some of the action sequences, such as the jump from the second floor of the parking garage.
  • The knife used by the Night Slasher character was made for the film by knife designer Herman Schneider. Sylvester Stallone had asked Schneider to create a knife that audiences would never forget.
  • Cobretti uses a custom Colt Gold Cup National Match 1911 in 9mm using Glaser Safety Slugs, a frangible bullet. This is shown when he unloads his pistol in his apartment to clean it. The Colt Gold Cup National Match 1911 is usually chambered in .45 ACP, the 9mm versions were made especially for the film.
  • Originally, there was a scene where Cobretti uses a blank firing ASP 9mm as a BUG(back up gun) but it was deleted during the re-editing.
  • The submachine gun used by Marion Cobretti in the final showdown with biker gang is a Jati-Matic. The Jati-Matic first appeared in the early 1980s, but was never adopted by any country for use. It re-appeared in Finland in the mid-1990s as the GG-95 Personal Defense Weapon made by the Golden Gun Company. The gun is chambered in 9x19 parabellum, has a cyclic rate of 600 rounds/min, and has various accessories that were offered such as a silencer, various capacity magazines, and a laser pointing device.
  • Director Nicolas Winding Refn is a huge fan of Cobra. In Refn's cult movie Drive (2011 film) main character has toothpick in his mouth in some scenes; this is Refn's homage to the opening scene of Cobra where Stallone has matchstick in his mouth.
  • Sylvester Stallone and Brigitte Nielsen were real-life husband and wife at the time of production.

Music score[edit]

Various Artists
Soundtrack album
Released 1992 (1992)
Genre Soundtrack
Label Scotti Bros. Records
Producer Robin Garb

An audio cassette and vinyl version were released on September 21, 1988, followed by a CD which was released in 1992 as the Original Motion Picture Soundtrack.[9]

No. Title Music Length
1. "Voice of America's Sons"   John Cafferty & The Beaver Brown Band  
2. "Feel the Heat"   Jean Beauvoir  
3. "Loving on Borrowed Time"   Brian Short  
4. "Skyline"   Sylvester Levay  
5. "Hold on to Your Vision"   Gary Wright  
6. "Suave"   Miami Sound Machine  
7. "Cobra"   Sylvester Levay  
8. "Angel of the City"   Robert Tepper  
9. "Chase"   Sylvester Levay  
10. "Two into One"   Bill Medley & Carmen Twillie  

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Brenner, Paul. "Cobra". Allmovie. Rovi Corporation. Retrieved July 15, 2013. 
  2. ^ a b "'Cobra' Biggest Draw For Box-office Bucks". Sun Sentinel. Retrieved 2010-11-08. 
  3. ^ "I Took Over A Role From Someone Else And Now I'm Famous". The Role That Changed My Life. Season 1. Episode 4. Retrieved 14 December 2010.
  4. ^ a b "Cobra (1986)". Rotten Tomatoes. Flixster. Retrieved 28 October 2013. 
  5. ^ "Cobra: Review". TV Guide. Retrieved 15 December 2010. 
  6. ^ Darnton, Nina (1986-05-24). "Cobra (1986) Film: Sylvester Stallone as Policeman, in 'Cobra'." Retrieved 2013-10-18.
  7. ^ (1987)"1986 RAZZIE® Nominees & 'Winners.'" Golden Raspberry Award Foundation and John Wilson. Retrieved 2013-10-18.
  8. ^
  9. ^ Cobra: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (1986 Film). Retrieved 2013-10-18.

External links[edit]