Crime is rampant across America and it's going to take a new breed of cop to take down the bad guys. Some such bad guys are a gang of murderers who have struck terror into the hearts of the citizens of Los Angeles, only nobody knows of their existence - they think the Night Slasher is one person, a serial killer who has been killing innocent people. When one of the gang walks into a supermarket and shoots up the place, the police soon arrive, but there's only one brave officer who is willing to go in alone and tackle him, and that man is known as Cobra (Sylvester Stallone)...
Crime is the disease and he's the cure, or so the posters said for this most typical of the era's action movies which nevertheless didn't perform as well as Stallone's other hits; it seemed that audiences simply wanted to see him as Rocky and Rambo (until Rocky V and Rambo III, at any rate). It was drastically cut down from a two hour experience into just under ninety minutes, which paced it as rushing through the plot woth unseemly haste. Watching it now, it looks as if there was a checklist of clichés the star was working through on his script, which was adapted from a novel called Fair Game by Paula Gosling. Yes, the same as the Cindy Crawford flop from the nineties.
But also similar to Stallone's script for Beverly Hills Cop, which he had been working on until he left that project over budget issues to give way to the then-cheaper Eddie Murphy. The message is plain: it's the law who are to blame for the crime running wild through America's streets as the scaremongering opening narration makes clear, for they let the evildoers do as they wish since they have those vaguely defined "rights" as much as their victims do - maybe more so! It's the old Dirty Harry stereotypes that the eighties loved and employed across the thrillers of the day, with two of the stars of that film, Andrew Robinson and Reni Santoni, appearing here as detectives, obviously to make us think of the Clint Eastwood classic.
Of course, it's only Cobra who twigs that there is a whole gang, an axe-wielding cult no less, of killers on the loose, led by Brian Thompson with a stocking over his face, which is curious as he is an actor who looks as if he's wearing a stocking over his head even when he isn't. The damsel in distress in this case is Ingrid, played by Stallone's then wife Brigitte Nielsen and it's interesting to see the filmmakers' strenuous efforts to make it look as if she is the same height as her co-star, when of course she's seven feet tall to Stallone's five. Ingrid is a model who escapes the clutches of the psychos, though this makes them all the more keen to bump her off, managing to expose their operation in a spectacular own goal.
So it's up to Cobra to save the day and, being a cop who doesn't play by the rules he's just the man for the job. Incidentally, David Rasche appears in this for about ten seconds as Ingrid's photographer; he essayed the far more sensible role of Sledge Hammer! on television and his appearance makes one briefly yearn for a film starring his character. But it's not to be, as the not dissimilar (but meant to be serious), sunglasses-sporting Cobra (real name Marion in a misjudged bit of humour) zooms around in his fancy car and blows away the crims. The villains have a vague agenda about being the future of society where presumably everyone is either a criminal or a victim, but it's never developed further and in the main they're an anonymous lot save for their leader and the double agent character. Cobra fills a hole for action addicts, but it's uninspired for most of the time, its silliness marking it out for its sole interest. Music by Sylvester Levay. What, no Frank Stallone songs on the soundtrack?