Cobra Mission (1986)

Cobra Mission DVD CoverThis time all our boys come home! No, really – this time we mean it! Four guys get the idea to head back to the Nam while sitting in a bar listening to a news report about a POW who escaped to freedom. Once the expected bar fight between one of our crazed Vietnam vets and the local loudmouths concludes, they hit the road in search of some information about the POWs who are still back in-country, but what they find is a variety of Italian cinema celebrities!

First up is the evil Colonel Mortimer essayed by Gordon Mitchell, veteran of sword and sandal efforts such as The Giant Of Metropolis and Atlas In The Land Of The Cyclops. He tells them that their old commanding officer, Major Morris, isn’t in the service anymore and that if they know what’s good for them, they won’t try to find him. Next stop: Major Morris’ house!

Major Morris turns out to be none other than famed Italian director Enzo G. Castellari of 1990: The Bronx Warriors and The New Barbarians fame.

Morris is obsessed with the POW issue and starts pulling maps out and pointing to locations where the camps are. Our boys act like they don’t want anything to do with him and leave in a hurry. Is that any way to treat the guy who made The Inglorious Bastards?

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Their final stop is the veteran’s hospital where their other buddy is locked up. He’s Oliver Tobias and only pretending to be nuts because as he explains, he gets fed, pays no rent or taxes, and hooks up with the nurses.

Proving that he actually is mentally unbalanced though, he signs onto the POW rescue mission and we’re off to Thailand to look up another friend who runs a casino and lets them win some money to finance their mission.

Now I’m all for planning missions, doing recon work, putting together a crack team of jobless bums and crazy vets, but I’m also just as equally for shooting prison camp guards, blowing the piss out of the jungle, and just generally kicking ass and carpetbombing the landscape with the Ace of Spades.

Us dogfaces know though that most of the time it isn’t all that glamorous. So it is then that there’s an awful lot of waiting around, riding in trucks and jeeps, checking maps, and resting in native villages between periodic outbursts of colorful explosions and platoons of Vietnamese getting mowed down with glee by Johnny Yank.

When we finally do see action, it’s well worth the wait. Ultimately, this movie knows what it’s here to do and delivers everything you want and expect. And it probably goes without saying, but since this is an Italian production, you get even more than you expect or even deserve!

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Do you like knife work? You get a throat cut, a knife in the back, a guy stabbed in the gut, and even a group machete attack right at the beginning of things!

Enjoy seeing bamboo huts blown sky high? Done!

How about intense scenes of one our guys using the gear shift in a truck? You get a lot of that while he’s trying to fend off a helicopter attack. Despite the helicopter riddling the truck with bullets, our driver manages to stick his weapon out the window and shoot the helicopter down while still driving, so I guess all that gear shifting was pivotal after all.

There are some personal touches to the violence that reward repeated viewings. There’s the time a guy throws a grenade into a room full of guards while announcing, “you’ve got mail!”

There’s also the time when a guy loads his vest with a pair of grenades, bails out of his truck and watches as it crashes into two enemy-filled troop transports. After he sees everyone blow up, he gives them all the finger! That’s straight out of basic training!

But the death and destruction is not all fun and games. As they prepare to raid the prison camp, Oliver’s character (Richard) sees a guard from when he was a POW ten years ago and starts to flashback to all the torture that scum inflicted on him. He was beaten, urinated on and worst of all for the viewer, he was whipped while buck naked! Now, I’ve got flashbacks!

These memories cause Richard to start shooting everyone despite team leader Christopher Connelly (Django Strikes Again and Manhattan Baby) not giving the go sign!

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All’s well that ends well though because everyone gets busted out. There are some unsettling aspects to the break out such as the presence of American supplies and some of the escapees’ reluctance to leave, but there’s no time to worry about that since the Vietnamese army is hot on their tail.

Even as the movie blows its way to its apparently predictable conclusion, the story begins to veer from the usual MIA movie template. While hiding out at the village, one of our heroes takes the opportunity to romance a local gal by telling her about some chick he knew during the war who looked like her and was killed in a bombing raid.

I thought that was a strange form of foreplay, but it seemed to be working because she took her shirt off. But then it seemed not to be working when she showed us a hideously scarred torso, yelled something like “American napalm!” and then shot our guy to death!

Crazy Richard finally came into the hut, screamed “you murdered Mark!” several times and then shot her. Still, it was kind of a downer. The ending is even more of a downer as an unspeakable double cross is revealed.

Routine for much of the way, but with plenty of trashy highlights and enough familiar faces (bonus appearance by Donald Pleasence as a French priest who helps out the good guys!) to merit six or seven viewings. Oliver Tobias, director Fabrizio De Angelis, and the writers would go on to make the even trashier (and better) football-team-rescue-mission film, The Last Match.

© 2015 MonsterHunter

One thought on “Cobra Mission (1986)

  1. Boyd

    Ah, I remember this flick. Most of it was your tyical Rampo-ripoff, with some hilarious sequences. I think there was a scene were a bunch of vietnamese soldiers come running out of a building, just to be killed one after another by one of our heroes. And a couple of scenes were the downed “soldiers” clearly look over their shoulders to choose an appropiate spot to fall onto and “die”.

    However, the ending was quite sad and ingenious for this kind of movie. Quite reasonable, too, and miles better than your typical, symplistic “betrayed by the government” plot. Amazing how I can still remember it after all these years.

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