An Overlooked Sylvester Stallone Action Film Is Killing It On Streaming

Does anyone remember this?

By Michileen Martin | Published

sylvester stallone

Believe it or not, not every successful Sylvester Stallone action film was followed by a long string of sequels. In the mid-to-late eighties and nineties the Rocky star was taking potshots at possible franchises and lots of them never got beyond movie #1, even when they made serious bank. A perfect example is the 1986 action flick Cobra, which made a boatload of money but has since been overshadowed by pretty much everything else Stallone has done. Regardless, Cobra entered the top 10 movies streamed list on Hulu earlier this week.

sylvester stallone
Sylvester Stallone in Cobra (1986)

Lieutenant Marion Cobretti, aka Cobra, is a member of the LAPD who just doesn’t know how to play by the rules. That becomes apparent right away when, rather than negotiating with a gunman into releasing his hostages, Cobretti spears him with a knife and shoots him. But while Cobretti manages to save most of the hostages, it turns out the menace the gunman represented is just beginning. Before his death, the gunman rants about a violent group of social darwinists calling itself the New World Order. What most assumed to just be the insane ramblings of a madman turns out to be true, and Cobra finds himself on a collision course with them.

The woman who winds up bringing Sylvester Stallone’s Cobra into the conflict is the model Ingrid Knudsen who has the bad luck of witnessing the New World Order’s leader — known as the Night Slasher — and his followers committing murder. Cobretti and his partner Sergeant Tony Gonzales (Reni Santoni) are assigned to guard Knudsen while she’s in protective custody, but the New World Order has grown too powerful to let a couple of cops stop them. An “unexpected” (yeah right) romance develops, complicating matters, and the New World Order comes gunning for Cobra and Knudsen with everything they’ve got.

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Sylvester Stallone and Brigitte Nielsen in Cobra (1986)

If you ever make fun of eighties action movies and you haven’t seen Sylvester Stallone in Cobra? You need to sit down, shush your face, and watch the thing to educate yourself. Cobra is like a perfectly molded collection of cop movie action tropes. There’s the hero who’s technically a police officer but he can’t follow the rules, so he’s not only fighting against the villains but against his own bosses. There’s the unobtainable celebrity damsel in distress who falls for the hero. And not so much a trope as it is just hilarious, there’s Sylvester Stallone wearing his sunglasses at night and chewing on matchsticks.

Joining Sylvester Stallone as damsel-in-distress Ingrid Knudsen is Brigitte Nielsen, who had just appeared alongside Stallone as the villain’s main squeeze in Rocky IV. Playing the Night Slasher was Brian Thompson — a guy whose name you might not know but whose face you almost certainly do. Heavily muscled, with one of the most distinct faces in Hollywood, Thompson had numerous small and recurring roles in films and TV. He’s one of the first guys the eponymous cyborg kills in 1984’s The Terminator, he appeared in different Star Trek series and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Any fan of The X-Files will remember him as the intimidating and almost always wordless alien bounty hunter.

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Brian Thompson in Cobra

Cobra was, in part, created out of Sylvester Stallone’s failed attempt to be the star of Beverly Hills Cop. Before Eddie Murphy was cast in the role of Axel Foley, Stallone was attached to the film but he rewrote the script; making it less an action comedy and mainly just an action film. The script was rejected because the action scenes Stallone wanted would have inflated the budget, so instead the Rocky actor reworked his script into what became Cobra, partly basing it off the 1974 Paula Gosling novel Fair Game.

Directed by the late George P. Cosmatos — who also directed Sylvester Stallone in Rambo: First Blood Part IICobra did well at the box office, pulling in a worldwide gross of $160 million against a $25 million budget. It was somehow considered a failure, however, because it didn’t make the same kind money Rambo pulled in ($300 million). Critics have never been fond of the flick judging by its 18% critics score on Rotten Tomatoes. With Hulu and the streaming service’s Cinemax add-on, you can tell for yourself whether or not you think Cobra gave good venom.