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 horror thriller film directed by George P. Cosmatos, and written by Sylvester Stallone, who also starred in the lead role. The film co-stars Reni Santoni, Brigitte Nielsen and Andrew Robinson.[1] The film received negative reviews, with the overuse of genre tropes criticized, yet it debuted at the number one spot on the U.S. box office.[2]

The screenplay by Stallone was originally written for the film Beverly Hills Cop. It was loosely based on the novel Fair Game by Paula Gosling, which was later filmed under that title in 1995. He had wanted to make a less comedic, more action-oriented film. When he left that project, Eddie Murphy was brought in to play the lead role.[3]


Marion Cobretti, codenamed "Cobra", is a police officer from a division of the Los Angeles Police Department known as the "Zombie Squad". He is called into a hostage situation at a grocery store when negotiations fail. Cobretti kills the gunman, but before his death the criminal mumbles of a 'New Order': a group of social darwinist psychopaths that despise modern society and believe in killing the weak to leave only the strongest and smartest to live and 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 as well by reporters, Cobretti admonishes them for failing to put the safety of potential victims first. At the time, what is not known is that the supermarket event is connected to 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 mentioned by the supermarket gunman.

After witnessing several individuals in a spree killing, including 'The Night Slasher' that is the Order's leader, at the scene of one of the murders late at night, model Ingrid Knudsen becomes the target of the group because she was the only living witness to their crimes. After one attempt on her life, she is placed under the protective custody of Cobretti and his partner, Sergeant Tony Gonzales. After several 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 into the countryside.

Cobretti becomes romantically involved with Ingrid shortly after venturing out into the countryside, but one of the Order's leaders (a police officer traveling alongside 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 in which they are staying. With barely enough time to react, the attackers storm the motel room Cobretti is in with Ingrid, 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, with over two dozen of them taken out, but there are still a few members who follow them into the building. After eliminating every member except for the Night Slasher himself, Cobretti and the leader ultimately engage in a deadly hand-to-hand duel inside the steel mill, ending with the Order's leader 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; the Order is completely eliminated. 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.



First rough cut of the movie was over two hours long (closest estimated original running time is 130 minutes). It was cut down to near two hours long director's cut which was intended to be released in theatres. However, after Top Gun (1986) came out and became huge hit, Sylvester Stallone and Warner Bros. were worried that Cobra would not be successful so in order to ensure one extra theatrical screening during the day, movie was heavily re-edited before theatrical release. Stallone cut out much of the plot and scenes involving other characters other than his own from movie and Warner Bros. also demanded that more graphic scenes should be cut down or removed due to the violence and that some action scenes should be cut for pacing and because they were "too intense".

Even though movie was already heavily re-edited and most of the violence was cut out, when it was submitted to the MPAA it received X rating so further cuts had to be made. Full lists of cuts made on violent scenes are not known, but based on director's commentary and several other sources, some of the cut scenes include; First murder victim having her throat cut and her hands severed, more shots of dead bodies in autopsy scene including lingering shots of naked and mutilated body of murdered women and other bodies, longer death scene of Ingrid's photographer Dan in which he was hit lot more times with axes, also part where he slips on his own blood and falls on ground only to get hit more times was also cut, graphic close ups of Nightslasher's wound after he gets impaled on hook and part where Cobretti keeps pulling him down while Nightslasher screams in pain, more deaths of town's people during the climax of the movie including a scene where one person is hit with ax in the face were cut even though two extra death scenes appeared in 1990's TV versions of the film but without any graphic parts included.

Interesting kind of editing was made for cuts on violent scenes; Few scenes in which Nightslasher and gang members are killing people were slowed down, while some of the shootouts which were originally in slow-motion were changed to be in normal speed.

Car chase scene in the middle of the movie in which Cobretti chases Nightslasher and one of his gang members was originally longer and it ended differently. In theatrical version Nightslasher shoots at Cobretti's car and causes him to crash into boat. In original version Nightslasher and his driver are first ones who crash into the boat and then Cobra fails to stop his car and crashes into them. Shot of Nightslasher's car turning around and him breathing in relief after Cobra crashes his car was edited from earlier part of the chase (which from same reason was not included in final cut) and shot of Cobra seeing the boat before he crashes into it was filmed and added later. In theatrical version, Nightslasher's crashed car is still visible in scene where Cobretti crashes into the boat.

Eventually, movie received R rating and it was released in theatres with 84 minutes long running time, approximately 50 minutes shorter than first assembly cut and 30 or 40 minutes shorter than director's cut.

Although uncut version or director's cut were never released officially, a timecoded workprint sourced from poor quality VHS is available as bootleg. It contains all of the X rated scenes and uncut action sequences, along with deleted plot parts involving more scenes explaining motives of New Order gang, bigger focus on other characters such as Nightslasher and Stalk, alternate lines of dialogue and temporary score which contains some of the songs and music from theatrical version and some pieces of scores from other movies.


Cobra was at its time, a critical failure, and, 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" and that "the few attempts to provide us with little insights into his character are downright laughable."[5] The New York Times ran a review stating 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]

Scott Weinberg of remarked that the movie was worth "seeing only in a 'depressing time capsule' sort of way."[4] It 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 the box office at No.1 and was a huge financial success with a Memorial Day weekend debut of $15.6 million.[2]


  • Sylvester Stallone and Brigitte Nielsen were real-life husband and wife at the time of the film's 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.[8]

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. ^ Cobra: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (1986 Film). Retrieved 2013-10-18.

External links[edit]