Black Cobra II (1988)
I really HATE buddy-cop movies. Of all the overused, cookie cutter, brainless genres out there, nothing annoys me more than when two cops with totally dissimilar attitudes and styles are thrown together against their will to solve a case, and along the way find a new appreciation for each other and develop a genuine friendship by the third act. Rarely, and I mean extremely rarely, does it work on screen, like in Lethal Weapon and In the Heat of the Night, and most of the time ends up sucking ass like Double Team or Turner and Hooch. As you can guess, Black Cobra II is one of those nauseating buddy-cop movies that goes horribly wrong, and I hurt on the inside for having watched this beastly groan-fest.
We open in Chicago, in the suburb of Stock Footageia where the film grain looks different than the rest of the movie and people wear Chicago Cubs jackets but drive cars with Italian license plates. In this opening sequence we meet Detective Robert "Bob" Malone, the hard-driving, rule-breaking, blood-spilling policeman of 1987's Black Cobra. For some never-explained reason, Malone has been transferred to Chicago from New York City between movies. Not that it makes much difference, really, Black Cobra II is a stand-alone sequel.
Malone is played by 50-year old Fred Williamson, a former football player and fairly successful European action star back in the 1970s, who is clearly past his prime by the time of our movie. Look for his black jeans, cowboy boots and classy Member's Only jacket, it's fashiontastic!
Malone has picked up right where he left off in the last movie, namely, killing suspects and endangering innocent civilians with reckless abandon, only to be barely reprimanded by his superiors later. Here he shoots and kills a suspected criminal who is holding a woman hostage, splattering the poor girl with blood and brain matter and no doubt resulting in litigation.
The "punishment" for Malone's latest bout of hot-headedness? Being sent overseas on an "officer exchange program" to "learn what real police work is like". Awesome, they are sending him to London to work with famously by-the-book Scotland Yard, or maybe to Sweden where the Stockholm police consistently rank the highest in professionalism and efficiency. Yes, that'll teach that rake Malone, a few weeks working with the Swedes should help him become a kinder and gentler law enforcement officer.
Hmm...what? Not Sweden? Manila? In the Philippines? Manila, one of the world's most dangerous and violent cities, a place where the "police force", to use that term loosely, is well-known to be in the pay of everyone from the corrupt politicians who run this jungle hellhole, to the drug gangs that rule the streets, and even to the Muslim extremists who plot jihad under the banana trees. The murder rate in the Philippines is horrifying, near 10,000 people killed annually, and the police do their fare share of murdering, torturing, kidnapping, extorting and the like every single day. This is the place they want to send Malone to "learn about police work"???
So Malone goes to Manila, and he's not off the plane three minutes before a con artist pickpockets his wallet. In trying to chase the thief, Malone ends up shoving and punching two Filipino airport security guards, which surely won't engender himself to the local authorities. But, as we will see countless times in this movie, things in the Philippines are pretty lax and Malone is allowed to go free after someone from the police department comes to get him.
For his overseas exchange, Malone is teamed up with another ex-pat American, Lieutenant Kevin McCall, played by 38-year old grade H action star wannabe Nicholas Hammond. This guy was in Stealth, and that should be all I need to say.
McCall and Malone are the stereotypical good-cop/bad-cop team. McCall wants to do everything by the book and is loathe to draw his weapon, while Malone stands by his firm shoot-first-at-random-and-don't-bother-to-ask-questions-later approach to law enforcement. What are the odds that each will recognize the other's talents and capabilities by movie's end and forge a bond based on mutual respect and friendship? Eh?
So they go to the pickpocket's apartment to try and find him (he's well known, I assume). They find him alright, but he's dead, a bullet in his head and his apartment ransacked. Malone does find his wallet, however, so it's not all bad.
They then go to see the pickpocket's daughter, hoping that she might have some information. She's a nightclub singer, but they find her at her well-apportioned house in a rather nice suburb (certainly more expensive than she should be able to afford). Malone and McCall break the bad news to her about her estranged father, though she knew it would come sometime, what with dad being a petty crook and all.
The girl is named Peggy and she's a scrawny little thing with bleached-out blonde hair and skinny ankles who can't be more than 19. She's played by Emma Hoagland, in what imdb.com tells me is the only credited role of her life. She must have been the director's girlfriend, or daughter, that sort of nepotism is fairly common in Italian cinema.
There is a near-instant attraction between this mousy, waifish girl and the violent, burly Malone, one that seems to defy common sense or logic. For the rest of the movie, nearly all of Malone's actions are motivated by his feelings for her. But love must be patient, and there are other matters to attend to first.
Ripping a page from Lethal Weapon's script, Malone must now go to dinner at McCall's house, to meet the Lieutenant's family and all that. McCall has a spunky cute little boy who looks like he was regurgitated from the bowels of some sappy 1950s television serial, and a fairly hot, if bland, trophy wife. Ever the charmer, Malone is on his best behavior and hearty laughs ensue as he's bested by the boy in matchbox cars and oozes compliments over the wife's cooking. Fucking kill me.
Once back at his hotel after the dinner, Malone gets the itch to go down to that nightclub where Peggy sings. "Sings" is a bit of a stretch, really, more like a bad karaoke version of some forgettable house-band pop tune. Trying to amp up the movie's virtually non-existent sex-level, the camera lovingly pans up and down Peggy's body as she wails out her tune, her bony stick-figure elbows and knees poking out from her ill-fitting red dress like some comic marionette.
Peggy in her dress.
Malone gets her attention and she comes over to sit with him after the show. They talk and Peggy lets on that she forgot to tell them earlier that right before he was killed her father mailed her a claim-check to a storage locker at the airport. She went down there and found a duffle bag with $10,000 in it! Ok.
Later, as Malone walks her home, a handful of thugs attack them! Malone manages to beat them off, despite being unarmed, and they escape. He does get the license plate of the Datsun 180B the bad guys arrived in, which traces back to an export business down by the docks.
It's not local Filipinos, but Iranians (!) who run that company, called "Basra Oil". So they go to see the head Iranian businessman and ask him about that Datsun. The man claims it was stolen, but you can just tell he's a lying bastard. McCall is up for Policeman of the Year apparently, because he is totally unwilling to follow up any more leads without firm, hard proof.
The next night, Malone and Peggy go out on a date. We are now forced to sit (uncomfortably squirm, really) through ten minutes of 50-year old Malone attempting to romance and woo Peggy, who literally is young enough to be his daughter. See more meaningful stares and looks, more fake laughs and raised eyebrows. See Malone dance, see Peggy giggle like a schoolgirl, see me vomit. The actress playing the girl tries to sell us the fantasy that such an attraction is actually possible in real life, but fails miserably in the face of Malone's schlocky 1960s come-on lines and his prodigious girth. Peggy gamely withers it all and fawns back appreciatingly, causing me to hit fast-forward several times during this sequence to save what little remains of my mortal soul.
After a night of dancing, slobbering and the like, Malone and Peggy go back to her apartment. The lights are dimmed, Peggy ends up in a slinky nightie and I'm sure several international laws against indecent and icky behavior were broken once the camera thankfully faded to black.
Sometime later Malone leaves, waving nonchalantly to the Manila cop on duty outside her apartment (oh, yeah, she's under police protection since the attempted attack). Soon after he leaves, however, poor Peggy is kidnapped in the dead of night from her house, the cop outside killed. Malone is about as emotionally distraught as Williamson's acting abilities will allow and is determined to see her back in his meaty arms again safely.
Malone and McCall go to the Iranian export office again to get some answers, sure they had something to do with it. They don't find anyone there except one flunky, who almost immediately gets into a wicked fight with Malone in the back room. Malone kicks his ass, of course, but then lets him go free (huh?) and they leave. Ah, but while they were fighting, McCall put a bug on the company phone, hoping to catch the flunky calling his boss after they were gone. Which the flunky does, giving away the fact that some sort of "big shipment" is going out tonight at the docks or something. Don't worry, all that is McGuffin-ish.
The flunky finds the bug as he hangs up, however, and sees that Malone and McCall are inexplicably still parked right outside listening on their radio. Realizing that he can't let the two cops go or they will blow the operation, the Iranian takes it on his own initiative to try and kill them to keep them quiet. So he grabs a shotgun and rushes out into the parking lot and opens fire on the parked car. While McCall hides behind the car, Malone makes a mad dash to take out the gunman with his bare hands.
Malone hurls himself over some boxes.
This is indeed one of the lamest action sequences ever filmed. Williamson is a big guy, yes, but he's clearly out-of-shape by this point in his career and seems to lack even the slightest motivation to try. He certainly was hired for his name recognition alone, and the producers would have done the movie a favor by writing less physical stunts into the script. As it is, Williamson is called upon to jump and run and dive and roll around like he's 25-years old, when he's actually twice that and I truly do feel for his poor, aching joints the next morning. But, Malone is Malone, so he kills the bad guy with style and then they just leave. Yes, just leave the dead body there in the parking lot and drive off. Policework at it's finest.
They now make the connection that Peggy is being held by the Iranians at the docks, down where the foreign oil tankers make berth. So off to the docks where Malone and McCall opt not to call for any backup, but decided instead to storm the bad guys armed with only pistols and their brilliantly white teeth.
We start in the open sun along a wide pier, which is strangely littered with small stacks of wooden crates seemingly placed at random to provide convenient hiding spots. Gunfire aplenty erupts as everyone tries really hard to kill each other. Malone, being Malone, and being ultra-cool Fred Williamson in a crappy 1980s cop movie, has his own signature shooting style, that being that he doesn't aim. No, he just shoots from the hip, literally, though he seems to be able to accurately hit moving targets from a hundred yards away with a snub-nosed revolver with this method so he must know what he's doing.
Malone shooting from the hip.
The firefight moves indoors to a large warehouse where the bad guys seem determined to give up their superior numbers and firepower advantage to stand in line for a series of one-on-one fistfights with Malone. Any number of low-paid stuntmen flop to the ground as an obviously huffing and puffing Fred Williamson attempts to do the same sort of flying leg kicks and roundhouse punches that seemed to work so well in 1968.
Malone finally locates his fair love Peggy, but he's too late, she's already been shot dead. Malone grimaces and sets his shoulders, you do not mess with this man's barely-legal love-slave! The remaining bad guys are dispatched in short order by the enraged Malone, though I guess McCall helps a little bit there at the end.
Our movie comes off the tracks now. It should have ended here, with the bad guys dead on the docks and everyone fairly happy about that. But this was 1988, remember, and the western world was involved in a near-shooting war with Iran in the Persian Gulf over oil. Jingoistic anti-Iranian sentiments were running high and nearly any attempt to feed on this hypocritical hysteria was acceptable. And so the Iranians aren't done yet in our movie. No, they have taken a group of children hostage in a downtown building and are threatening to blow it up with dynamite if their demands aren't met. What this has to do with the first 80% of our movie is unknown, and this hastily tacked-on ending sequence seems so terribly forced and out-of-place that it destroys what little shred of goodwill the movie has built up so far.
What are the odds that McCall's little boy is one of those kids being held hostage by those nasty Iranians? And what are the odds that McCall will call his wife and state firmly that he's "going to get his boy back"? And what are the odds that he and Malone will stage a two-man commando raid on the building, seemingly without even consulting the rest of the police force? And what are the odds that Malone will come crashing through a plate glass window with guns ablazing? Eh?
Anyway, that over, Malone bids adieu to Manila, shaking hands with his new buddy McCall and tossing an ultra-cool hand-gun-thing at him.
That's cool, baby, cool.
And so ends Black Cobra II.
Written in January 2008 by Nathan Decker.
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