Saturday, October 12

Some quick thoughts on The Day of the Cobra (Il giorno del Cobra) (1980)

Japanese VHS from MiMi Video (English/Full Screen)
Franco Nero stars as Larry "The Cobra" Stanziani, a weary private investigator resorting to tracking cheating spouses, who's offered an off-the-record job to take down a mysterious kingpin in Italy that ruined his police career years ago. Upon arriving in Rome, Stanziani is contacted by an powerful envoy and befriends a nightclub owner (Sybil Danning) for information, but he soon realizes no one can be trusted as his young son is targeted...

Much like the Italian rendition of Scorsese/De Niro, Enzo G. Castellari and Franco Nero have build their reputations through a multitude of usually great collaborations spanning their careers. Their first, and most pertinent to this review, partnership was the tremendous action crime film High Crime (La polizia incrimina la legge assolve) (1973). With parallels to Day of the Cobra, Nero stars as a brash police officer who becomes increasingly beleaguered in attempting to eradicate a drug ring with an unresponsive justice system. After his family falls prey, he realizes his relentless quest was all for not with his personal life in shambles despite supposed victory.

Image Credit: Atomic Caravan
This might be what ultimately hurts Nero's performance as "The Cobra". Stanziani's already nearly broken from the start and there's no redemption arch to make one care much about the character's plight. Instead, the story seems too preoccupied with laboring through familiar points with Nero's natural charisma and physicality in screen brawling barely keeping interest. It also doesn't help Stanziani suffers a bit from Kojak/Columbo syndrome of the period. Not to take anything away from those great television series, but Nero seems encumbered by little idiosyncrasies, like always chewing gum and wearing an unflattering tan bucket hat for most of the film. Those piercing blue eyes deserved better.

The Day of the Cobra isn't a bad effort, but it's too pedestrian when compared to better Castellari/Nero colabs. The sheer passion and scope of the aforementioned High Crime or Keoma (1976) is replaced by a lingering desperation to be too Americanized by "safely" going through the paces. Although maybe that can't be faulted with the popularity of the crime film beyond done in Italy and the entire film industry there beginning a long process of dwindling returns. Castellari, and maybe even moreover Nero, needed an international break and its a shame one never came for either.

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