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Sylvester Stallone Reveals Why ‘Cobra’ Was One of His Biggest Failures (and Expresses Sincere Apology)

Sylvester Stallone recognizes why ‘Cobra’ failed so badly in the ’80s. (Photo by Warner Brothers/Getty Images)

“You are the disease and I cure it.” With a phrase this cheesy we already had a strong clue that Cobra would be anything but a good movie. It was pronounced by its protagonist Marion ‘Cobra’ Cobretti, the police officer played by the then star of the moment, Sylvester Stallone. Almost four decades later, with more gray hair, fewer muscles, and clearer ideas, The actor pointed out the reason for this tremendous failure in his career after his great classics Rocky or Rambo.

There is a cinematographic phenomenon that was repeated a lot in the ’80s. Films that were quite poor in terms of quality but ended up becoming true cult films. Curiously, Cobra (1986) was one of them. Despite being a story that was more than predictable and not very credible, the public came in droves to see it. You are most likely hoping to see some of the excitement and adrenaline of her two previous hits, Rocky and Rambo, which had left such a good taste in the mouths of action and adventure film lovers. This new proposal managed to raise around $160 million worldwide, not bad for a typical film. But it didn’t leave the same mark.

And I say a lot because a script (incidentally written by Stallone) where the main plot was for a handsome heartthrob to take down a group of small-time thugs left a lot to be desired. The New York protagonist’s attempts to emulate, with little grace and zero closeness, Clint Eastwood in dirty Harry. In his attempt to make it so, the actor Reni Santoni, the unforgettable inspector ‘Chico’ González in the 1971 police film, made a stellar appearance in Cobra in the role of detective Tony González. It was in vain. The participation of his then-wife Brigitte Nielsen, the protected witness who, judging by her faces and reactions, was more lost than anything else.

The attempts Stallone and George P. Cosmatos, director of the film, to turn this project into a phenomenon within police stories were in vain. If you saw it in the ’80s like me, perhaps you were captivated by its youth and lack of critical sense, but if you dare to see it now, you will realize the flaws, the parsimony, and the lack of coherence of the plot. Its protagonist, now 77 years old, has recognized that there were errors and compelling reasons that led to it becoming one of the most nominated for the worst film at the 1986 Razzie Awards. Not in vain does it have a critical disapproval of 18% in Rotten Tomatoes.

During his participation in the Toronto Film Festival in 2023 to present his documentary Sly on Netflix, Stallone had a conversation with film critic and festival president Cameron Bailey. There he had no qualms about exposing the dirty laundry of Cobra. He acknowledged that he was not in good shape, and he wasn’t exactly talking about physics.

“Cobra, for me, was half-baked. I could have done it better, but I wasn’t exactly focused. I feel like it’s something that I should have directed and I didn’t, I’m sorry. That has a lot to do with making movies, you see back and wonder: My God, why didn’t I make an effort?” he admitted.

The reviews were devastating but did not influence the box office results. The public wanted to see Rambo and Rocky in full action again and they gave them the opportunity. That was reflected in the good numbers. But the fact that it became an eighties classic and exceeded expectations in theaters does not take away the title of a bad film, one of the worst of his consolidated career.

Based on the novel by Paula Gosling, Fair Game, few know that Cobra came after one of Stallone’s most notorious rejections in Hollywood. Two years earlier, in 1984, the already recognized star in the Mecca of cinema had been ‘the chosen one’ to star in one of the cinematic bombshells of that decade: A detective loose in Hollywood. After the rudeness and seriousness of his previous characters, the actor was about to get into the shoes of the funny and somewhat crazy detective Axel Foley.

What happened so that Eddie Murphy was finally the one who ended up starring in this hilarious ’80s classic? Ron Meyer, then Stallone’s agent, told James Andrew Miller, author of the book Powerhouse: The Untold History of Hollywood’s Creative Arts Agency that although he was “excited” at the idea of ​​seeing his client in this project, his artist didn’t seem so excited. The also protagonist of Total risk. He put a condition. The fact that the police officer was so funny and took almost everything as a joke didn’t suit Stallone, so the actor decided to rewrite the script in his way. A bad decision that he himself recognized. “Ron told me, ‘Don’t change it,’ but I took the script and redid it…. I didn’t think I could pull it off. “Then the ship sailed,” the artist acknowledged, as he points out. The Hollywood Reporter.

His version was immediately rejected by the producers for destroying the fun and reason for this story: the sense of humor of a crazy Los Angeles cop. But one of them, Don Simpson, later acknowledged that Stallone’s pen on his new script proposal was excellent. “He had heart, passion, and compassion. He was splendid, he had cunning and the central idea was more about revenge,” the filmmaker acknowledged to The New York Times in 1984.

Stallone was left without A detective loose in Hollywood, but he saved his ideas and planted them in the script of his new film: Cobra. Obviously, the difference is noticeable. The actor fulfilled the maxim, and his sense of humor does not appear anywhere. The cop he plays is every bit as tough as he always planned, I don’t remember seeing a single smile in the film, which, in my opinion, takes away from the humanity and closeness of this story, applauded by a part of the public at the time, but annihilated by film critics.

It’s not necessary to look unfriendly all the time to remain the king of action. So, as his rival did Arnold Schwarzenegger in A detective in kindergarten or Twins, Stallone gave comedy a chance in films like Oscar, the disastrous Stop or my mom shoots! and, later, with the very witty and humorous points that shone, sporadically, in the different installments of The indestructibles. We came to the conclusion that, cinematically, comedy is not his strong suit or favorite dish, but it is always appreciated to see an actor give the opportunity to other registers.

Will we see him again with sunglasses, a toothpick in his mouth, and a shotgun in hand killing the bad guys? Maybe not, at least not with the intensity of the past. Given the possibility of resurrecting Rambo in the movies soon, the actor was blunt and very funny: “What am I going to fight, arthritis?” he said at the Toronto Film Festival.

This article was written exclusively for Yahoo en Español by Cine54.

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