Monday, August 2, 2010

'Black Cobra 2' is worse than the original

Black Cobra 2 (1988)
Starring: Fred Williamson, Nicholas Hammond, and Emma Hoagland
Director: Stelvio Massi
Rating: Four of Ten Stars

Police Lt. Robert Malone (Williamson) is sent to the Philippines to study Interpol techniques after blowing away one hostage-taking drug dealer too many. Always a trouble magnet, Malone and his new Interpol partner, Inspector Kevin McCoal (Hammond), soon find themselves up against a shadowy group of violent Middle Eastern terrorists who are pursuing the beautiful daughter of a small-time thief, Peggy Mallory (Hoagland), for unknown reasons. Before you can say "Please Hammer, don't hurt 'em!" there's gunfire, explosions, silly plottwists and 350 kids held hostage in a building that's rigged to explode... and only Malone and McCoal can save the day!

A fellow movie-lover whose taste is usually to be relied upon told me that each "Black Cobra" film is better than the one than the one before. Well, this is one instance where she was wrong.
"Black Cobra 2" is NOT better than the movie it's a sequel to. While star Fred Williamson is a little less wooden in his second outing as no-nonsense action cop Robert Malone (who gets referred to as "Bob" by the love interest in one of the many sour notes in this film... I'm sorry, but this character is NOT a "Bob." Not even his mother would call him "Bob"), and there is a single very unexpected plot development as the film enters its third act, just about everything else about this movie is so laughably bad that it makes the only other "odd-couple buddy cop" picture I can think of that's on this low level of quality, "The Glimmer Man", look like "Lethal Weapon". Plus, they got rid of the one thing that made Malone a neat character in the original "Black Cobra"--that little cat of his.

From the lamely done chase scene that opens the film to the climactic hostage rescue that closes it, the film's extremely low budget is painfully evident. Further, while the director and his cinematographers are clearly experienced hands at filming martial arts sequences, there's no hiding that catches up with the best of us (like, oh, Fred Williamson) and that more rehearsal time than I'm sure the budget would allow was needed to make the hand-to-hand fight scenes look natural.

And then there's the dialogue. I don't think I've EVER seen so much purple prose in a single movie. The love interest Peggy Mallory was being so over-the-top sappy every time she brought up her father that if I'd been Malone or McCoal, I would have arrested her for the murder of her father; no one talks the way she talks, unless they're being deeply sarcastic. (An extension of the dialogue problem is the voice actors that were used in the badly synched dubbing of the non-English--and even some of the English--speaking actors. Some of them are as bad as the lines they were reading, particularly the woman who was doing Inspector McCoal's young son. It was rather creepy to hear what was obviously an adult woman's voice coming from the mouth of a 7-year-old. Someone get that kid an exorcist!)

To perfect the overall horribleness of the film, there is the fact that there is NO chemistry between any of the actors appearing on screen. While none of the leads are particularly terrible, there's no real sense of connection between any of the characters and there's no reason for the audience to believe that any sort of feelings develop between any of them, other than perhaps mild annoyance. Each character is okay if taken as a 1980s action film stereotype, but when they are put together, they don't work, because the actors aren't connecting.

With a badly written script that overreaches the film's meager budget and a cast of stars that have no shared on-screen chemistry, "Black Cobra 2" has little to recommend it, except as a possible inclusion for a Bad Movie Night--but only after you've already tapped Steven Seagal's offerings. There are a couple of surprising moments in the film--which I can't talk about without spoiling the plot, but one earns the film an additional point on the scale all by itself--but they aren't enough to make this movie worth seeking out.

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