(In French, On Cable TV, January 2019) There was a fantasy film boom in the early-to-mid-1980s, and not all of them were created equal. While Arnold Schwarzenegger’s performance as Conan in the two eponymous movies left a mark, it’s not possible to say the same about his turn in spin-off Red Sonja, or the entire movie itself. A fairly standard heroic fantasy adventure, this is a film that still earns attention today based on two things: its place on Schwarzenegger’s filmography, obviously, but also Brigitte Nielsen as the titular red-headed warrior. But looking fine and acting well are not the same thing, and Schwarzenegger in a rare supporting role only highlights how badly he did when the spotlight was away. It doesn’t help that the script is terrible, with a dull plot, terrible dialogue and sexual politics more outdated than its prehistoric setting—rape is used as a plot device, lesbianism is incarnated by the evil witch and the title character doesn’t have much agency in a movie that’s supposed to revolve around her. The result is an all-around embarrassment devoid of most of the thin guilty pleasures of its other two related movie. And yet, I can’t help thinking that in the proper hands (specifically, a female creative team), Red Sonja would be a movie ripe for a remake.
(In French, On TV, January 2019) There are times when, watching 1980s movie, you really start to wonder if Hollywood was sane at all during that decade. For instance: Cobra, the generic action movie featuring Sylvester Stallone at the epitome of the cowboy cop, ready to shoot and maim and kill before even thinking of maybe asking questions. Cobra takes the cop movie clichés of the decade and cranks them up to eleven—the cool car, the big weapons, the moody cop, the evil villains. Its excessive violence is made even worse by the lack of self-awareness of any kind of humour. Reading about the film’s horrible production confirms suspicions that emerge during the film itself: Stallone himself is the problem, thinking of himself as bigger than the movie and relishing the over-the-top psychopathy of the so-called hero. Even the film’s choppy plotting and editing goes back to Stallone, as he ordered last-minute trims to the film in order to compete in theatres. There are side benefits to watching the movie, but not many: Brigitte Nielsen has an outstanding supporting role, and the film does ooze mid-1980s atmosphere. Otherwise, well, Cobra ranks high on the list of exhibits why we really should not indulge in 1980s nostalgia.