In honor of Friday's release of The Expendables, we're taking a week-long look at the action films of Sir Sylvester Stallone -- which is to say we're skipping his comedies. Out of respect.
Setting: Present-day 1986. Los Angeles.
Our hero: Strong, silent but surprisingly witty Marion "Cobra" Cobretti, a cop who works for the "zombie squad," the police's unofficial (or hell – maybe it's official) name for the guys who deal with the dregs of society, unlike other cops who only do desk work or get cats out of trees.
Our villain/s: The Night Slasher, played by Brian Thompson, who was perfectly cast as a crazy homicidal killer. Although he says almost nothing in the film (except for a surprisingly persuasive campaign speech to Cobra during the climax), he's apparently the leader of an equally crazy, homicidal cult. And just for good measure, there's also a bleeding-heart desk-jockey (ironically played by former Dirty Harry villain Andrew Robinson) who devotes the majority of his screen time explaining why Cobra should have used more subtle measures than machine guns, breakneck car chases and one-liner showdowns to apprehend bad guys. (What a pussy.)
The stakes: The life of Ingrid (Brigitte Nielsen), a supermodel who's about two clicks of the shutter away from the fashion world's version of a casting couch. Oh, and I suppose the lives of all free, upstanding Los Angelenos who fear oppression from the Night Slasher's reign of terror.
How long until our first confrontation? About two minutes. The opening credits reveals that Cobra is a master statistician, reading off the duration between violent crimes and assaults upon decent, hardworking citizens, and he's summarily proven right when a crazy dude with a shotgun opens fire on every Pepsi sign within sight at a local grocery store.
Line of dialogue that nails it: "I don't deal with psychos. I put them away." Also, "this is where the law stops. And I start. Sucka!"
Coolest display of might: When he hoists up one of his adversaries on a hook at the local smoke and fire factory and sends him off to be char-broiled.
Is that...? Yes, that's Sledge Hammer (a/k/a David Rasche) as the sleazy photographer who offers to sleep with Ingrid – "if not for her, for her career."
Oddest lack of consistency: Reni Santoni (Dirty Harry alums are all over the place) asks a fashion model if she's been around drugs or anyone involved with drugs, and she says no.
Moral of the story: Judges, negotiators, and more reasonable cops are weak, spineless, powerless pussies. The only justice that can be meted is street justice, and that's the kind that Cobra provides.
Stallone Action Scale: 8 out of 10, given that there's no sex scene (how is that possible?). But his 1950 Mercury crashing into a drydocked boat as a car chase comes to an end is responsible six of those points.
Vaguely Inappropriate Patriotism Scale: 4 out of 10, until "Voice of America's Sons (Theme from Cobra)" by John Cafferty and the Brown Beaver Band plays over the end credits. Then it's 24 out of 10.