Tuesday, February 22, 2011

In short: Black Cobra (1987)

Original title: Cobra nero

Fashion photographer Elys Trumbo (Eva Grimaldi) witnesses one of the dozen murders a nameless gang of evildoers with an equally nameless leader (Bruno Bilotta) commits per week. The gang isn't amused and at once attempts to kill the accidental witness too, but Elys manages to flee into the protective arms of the police.

Alas, the police is nothing these particular evildoers are afraid of. The very same night, members of the gang attack the hospital where Elys is being taken care of. Fortunately, the chief of police has put maverick cop and professional asshole Robert Malone (Fred Williamson!) on the photographer's case. Malone arrives just in time to do what he does best: slaughtering the bad guys and acting like a douche towards the traumatised woman.

Of course, the hospital shoot-out won't be the last attempt on Elys's life. The poor woman will not even be safe in that most secure of all places the police could put her - Malone's apartment. On the positive side, the photographer has a thing for complete assholes, so there'll be a glorious romance in her and Malone's future if they survive the whole nameless bandit affair first.

There really was no movie made during the 80s too bad for the always hungry Italian rip-off machine to ignore. Case in point is Black Cobra, a film actually ripping off Sylvester Stallone's painful Cobra, of course on a mere fraction of the Hollywood film's budget. But I have to say, if I had to decide between the Stallone vehicle and this film, I'd certainly go with the Italian version, seeing as it features in Fred Williamson the charismatic lead actor the American movie lacks, tortures its audience with fewer crypto-fascist soliloquies and even is in the possession of a sense of humour.

That sense of humour mainly shows in the loving care the film puts into making Williamson's character the most unsympathetic asshole possible (while still making the man look his trademark cool), until he has all the negative character traits of any action hero ever combined, making it completely impossible to take anything he says or does seriously. Williamson seems to have fun with that and applies his considerable powers of self-irony to his role.

As it goes with Williamson vehicles, he is the most entertaining part of his movie. The script goes through the mandatory variations of scenes and elements from Cobra and adds bits and pieces of other cop vigilante movies, without too much care for logic (What exactly are the bad guys trying to do here? Or, for that matter, the police?); there's a female lead without any agency whatsoever; and the bad guys aren't just nameless but also weirdly vague characterised and without anything much memorable about them.

Although there a too few of them for an action film, director Stelvio Massi knows how to shoot mildly exciting action sequences. They're nothing to write home about, especially compared with what a Hong Kong director or someone like Enzo G. Castellari would have done on a comparable budget, but they're clean, have loud noises and people dying, so I'm kinda alright with them, as I am with the whole of the film.

And, truth be told, for a film ripping off Cobra, being "kinda alright" is quite an achievement.


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