Tuesday, February 24, 2015

#DoubleFeature - Commando/Cobra

Two very manly action films that easily showed the pinnacle of the genre that decade.

It's a competition between SLY and SCHWARZIE in these following reviews:

Back in the late 1980s/early 1990s Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger were both at the peak of their career. The manliest of men in their cult definitive action movie classics!

At one point it almost seemed whenever a good Schwarzie was out, a Stallone one was never that far around the corner, and vice-versa.

Both action superstars seemed to be in continuous competition and try to one-up the other in their action scene.

Which probably culminated with the epic simultaneous releases of Demolition Man & Last Action Hero. Both films containing several allusion to both stars' career. It's kinda surprising to notice we had to wait over two decades, in 2013, to finally get both actors in the same motion picture, Escape Plan.

Today let's dig back into the mid-1980s with the two majors hits both actors released right after a successful debut with the likes of both Conan films, the first Terminator, as well as the Rocky and Rambo series.

Easily two fan favorites of both action movie stars. Both strangely never received a sequel over the decades.

Movie: Commando 
Directed by Mark L. Lester 
Release date 1985
Genre Action film
Country USA

Directed by Mark L. Lester (Firestarter, Class of 1984) Commando is easily one of Schwarzie's best and most memorable cult classics.

Along Arnold Schwarzenegger, the film stars Rae Dawn Chong, Dan Hedaya, Vernon Wells and a young little Alyssa Milano (!!) in the role of Arnie's daughter. Another Predator actor appears in the film, Bill Duke, as well as Bill Paxton who has a minor role in the film.

The story follows John Matrix. Ex-Delta Force. Now "retired" from this life, living off the grid with his lovely daughter Jenny. The two share a cute father-daughter bond and seem off to a good and quiet day... when mercenaries kidnap his daughter to force our hero to suit back up and work for them!

They want to send Matrix to South America, in the fictional country of Val Verde, to assassinate the local president to help establish this evil dictator Arius instead. Why's that? Because Matrix always gets the job done, and because he was a personal friend of the president.

They plane this big military coup and send Matrix to the airport. His mission? To kill the president quick and clean while they keep his daughter as bargain. But as soon as the plane is about to take off, John manages to kill the merc guarding him and escapes!

He has now about 11 hours - the time of the flight - to locate Jenny and kill any of Arius' men in his way before they even notice he never embarked on the plane!

What follows is one of the most badass assaults on bad guys ever put on film!

John Matrix forces this flight attendant caught in the middle of his "war" to help him out unwillingly.. but she soon wants to help our hero put things right and save poor little Jenny. Matrix takes them one by one, including highly trained Green Beret military guys until he must face this Bennett, an ex-member of Matrix's own team...

Commando is easily one of the most badass action films ever filmed. It's such a fun over-the-top film, with terrific action scenes! Pretty violent scenes! 

The film originally started more realistic. The project was originally developed as a calmer thriller about this ex-Israeli special forces forced out of retirement. But it was quite heavily adapted once Schwarzie came on board. Screenwriter Steven E. De Souza gave it a fun tongue-in-cheek approach. Most of the dialogues were entirely rewritten and the whole direction of the film changed.

Since nobody would take the premise seriously, they went for good fun and epic action scenes. The film has a great sense of fun and a perfect sense of humor. The film is now mostly remembered for its many memorable one-liners.

The always lovely Rae Dawn Chong (The Color Purple, Tales from the Darkside: The Movie) as Cindy is great. This actress used to pop up in so many films back then, sadly she hasn't appeared in much over the years.

It's a great action film, the best the genre could offer in the 1980s! From the epic manly beginning, showing our hero has this best dad on film ever, teaching his cute little daughter self-defense and apparently working as the sole lumbering jack in this entire area, carrying trees on his shoulders all by himself. Then later turning into this one-man army! Kicking all kinds of ass, as well as a master of hand to hand combat, guerrilla tactics, etc. I specially love how he quickly acquires this huge arsneal of weapons so easily, by simply stealing those in the middle of a city which is apparently pretty easy task to do. And let's not forget the epic climax of the film...

The film features such an epic score, composed by the legendary James Horner. He gave the film a pretty strange exotic-sounding atmosphere. I suppose just because John Matrix was sent to South America at the beginning of the film... but he actually never managed to make it over there, so it's a pretty strange thing to do. (The ending does take place on a small island... nearby.) Anyway it's a pretty weird but fun soundtrack that stays on your mind long after watching Commando, it's really catchy if odd. The film also uses a great hit of that time for the credits, the song "We Fight for Love" by Power Station.

Overall: Commando is a really fun film. Such an explosive action film! So over-the-top, noisy and violent! All kinds of fun, it's simply epic!

Highly Recommended! There have never been so many on-screen deaths portrayed on film! The film has a great sense humor too, which really sells it off, never taking itself too seriously. Arnie was at the top of his form back then. And Rae Dawn Chong was great in this fun memorable supporting role. The only thing that feel is too much, even for this film, is the way the final showdown with Bennet seems to drag on, savagely.

Our hero has probably the most badass and coolest name ever. I mean, John Matrix! How awesome is this name? A guns a-blazing action film, one of the better cult classics from that decade. And simply one of the best R-Rated films that year (back when R-Rated Blockbuster films were a thing).

The film went on winning a huge success, one of the best films that year easily. It would only lose some nominations to its direct competitor at the time, James Cameron's Aliens

Who knew steel drums could provie such an amazing score for an action film?

In 1988 a sequel was being developed, based on an adaptation of Roderick Thorp's 1979 novel "Nothing Lasts Forever". But once Schwarzenegger dropped out of project for Red Heat instead, the script would be adapted to feature a much more grounded "Average Joe" protagonist instead of our Governator. And once they got Bruce Willis on board, it would then become the first installment in the Die Hard series. So I suppose it turned out for the best. A reference to the fictional country Val Verde was still kept in its sequel Die Harder.

More recently, 20th Century Fox announced - the horror! - a remake would begin production with David Ayer (Training Day, Sabotage and the upcoming Suicide Squad adaptation) set to direct it, and Sam Worthington in the lead role...ugh..

I give it:
2.5 / 3 Films!

Movie: Cobra
Directed by George P. Cosmatos
Release date 1986
Genre Thriller/Action film 
Country USA

"Cobra" is a 1986 action/thriller directed by George P. Cosmatos (Leviathan, and also Stallone's own Rambo: First Blood Part II) and written by Sylvester Stallone himslef.

The film stars Brigitte Nielsen, Reni Santoni, Andrew Robinson and Brian Thompson.

It's actually a very loose adaptation of the novel "Fair Game" by Paula Gosling. Which would be later adapted a second time in the much closer 1995 film Fair Game by Andrew Sipes. Interestingly enough, both films would have very little in common, they have basically nothing to do with each other (aside from being about a cop trying to protect a female witness, and that's about it!).

The screenplay was written by Sly. Based on a few ideas he originally conceived while working in the pre-production for what became Beverly Hills Cop. That's right, Stallone was originally set to star in Beverly Hills Cop, but he dropped out of the film just two weeks prior to filming (and they would get Eddie Murphy instead to replace him... which really worked out for the film in the end). In a way, Cobra can best be summarized as "how Stallone originally would have made Beverly Hills Cop". Meaning, less comedic and more focused on action scenes (which had been deemed too expensive at the time).

The story takes place in the near future. It follows this street cop Lt. Marion Cobretti, codenamed "Cobra". Cobretti is part of the "Zombie Squad", an elite division of the LAPD. Cops from the Zombie Squad are basically one-man assault forces, having to deal justice all by themselves (kind of like Judge Dredd if you will).

The film begins with an armed robbery turned into an hostage situation in a small grocery store. When Cobra arrives on the scene and puts an end to this all by himself. Cobra kicks the ass of this criminal instead of wasting time negotiating with this scum. 

Lately there's been this mysterious group, the "New Order", causing a lot of trouble for the city. Everyone thinks it's a single psychopath wrecking havoc, but it turns out it's an entire group looking to bring anarchy. They want a return to a society in which only the strongest survive.

The other cops despise this Zombie Squad that completely disregard police procedures and protocols. And Cobra's the worst offender in their eyes. Everyone thinks Cobra only thinks about his pay and showing off, while completely ignoring the victims involved. But our hero has actually a big heart. He just mostly keeps to himself. 

One time a potential witness survives the killing spree of this "Night Slasher", from the New Order. And now those killers are after her! This Ingrid Knudsen needs to be placed into protective custody, and the cops can't stop something they refuse to believe in. That's where Cobra comes in. He gets her under his protection, thanks to this his friend police officer Tony Gonzales. They make a run for their lives as all these psychos try to take care of this witness. The cops are looking for a lone serial killer, but Cobra knows it's been various individuals following the same modus operandi, the superiors keep ignoring him. 

Our Lieutenant Cobretti takes Ingrid outside the city to protect her. The two get romantically involved. But it's too late, the Order soon finds them and is able to get their hands on Ingrid.

It all comes crashing down as Cobra is forced to face this entire cult. And this Night Slasher in an epic hand-to-hand finale in an abandoned steel mill (as most films in the 80s did. I think it was a law or something back then..). It all ends in a pretty epic gruesome final...

Let's be honest here. Cobra is not really a good thriller, but a pretty decent Stallone action film.

Showing how violent America was about to become. In Stallone's narrated introduction, they tell us a violent crime basically happens every second or so, when it's not a murder every dozen or so minutes! And that's why the world needs Cobra!

The film plays these things pretty straight. Which only give it a sort of B-movie tone.

While Cobra is a pretty badass character, who appears to be this really cool dude with a 'tude, with his fun one liners, attitude and whatnot, the rest of the film doesn't really match our protagonist at times. 

Cobra wears cool sunglasses, a match in his mouth, I mean he even cuts his pizza with a pair of scissors! (Which I honestly always do to this day. Hey, it's more practical!) He's such a badass! Even his silly name "Marion Cobretti" (for such a macho protagonist) sells this character! The kickass arsenal he uses to dispense justice! Ripping shirts left and right ("Clean up your act!"). He has such great lines, even the tagline and poster tells you right what you're getting ("Crime is disease, meet the cure").

The film is one of the most underrated manly action films out there. But there's a lot of wrong with it too, the story kinda drags on in the second act. Also the plot doesn't seem to match our hero. I mean, the villains are basically this axe-wielding clan... There's also a very cheesy montage to Robert Tepper's song "Angel of the City" (featuring models! and robots! why? I have no idea..).

The film features a fairly kickass soundtrack composed by Sylvester Levay. And lots of cheesy 80s pop song.

Overall: Cobra is a decent 80s gritty action film. The film's pretty underrated. Honestly, I recommend to Check It Out, it's well worth a look! But the story really seems to kill it - which is kinda silly to say about this sort of film.

There are several cuts of film, made back then to avoid getting a X-Rating at the time. It's a really gruesome and violent film. Lots of graphic scenes, the reason why the film made its R-Rating in the first place!

This was supposed to be Beverly Hills Cop at some point? Man, we dodged a bullet there...

For most of the film's problems, it would go on receiving so many negative reviews... unjustly, in my eyes. Yes you can give it a lot of criticism, but it's not that bad. It could certainly have been better. The writing is really clunky and the plot is really lacking. But Cobra is such a great character, the finale is simply great.

The original idea was for Cobra to start another Stallone franchise, but because it wasn't well received, it never got a sequel to begin with.

The film plays into so many tropes of the genre, all these common issues from action films back then. And it plays it straight, it's just no fun. The plot is kind of a mess. And unlike the above Commando, it perhaps took itself way too seriously for its own good. But still, the film is good. In fact it's one of the better guilty pleasures of the genre out there.

Kind of dumb, but great mindless action scenes.

The idea to get the novel Fair Game right would later launch the 1995 film by the same title. In fact this second adaptation started because Stallone and Warner Bros. wanted to get a much closer film to the book originally, before Stallone left that project and it turned into a William Baldwin film.

I give it:
2 / 3 Films!

And that is it for today's DoubleFeature!

This 1985 and 1986 movies are certainly fun action films and some of the best Schwarzenegger and Stallone did in their long career.

Both kind of stupid, but really enjoyable films!

Cobra is perhaps the more ridiculous one despite its more serious nature, because Sly simply rocks this matchstick-chewing protagonist. And while Commando is the more over-the-top cheesy of the two, this one simply catch you by surprise from its opening scene with Arnie carrying a huge tree over his muscled shoulder.

Watched back to back, they certainly make for a perfect movie night-double feature!

That's all for this time's DoubleFeature!

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