Hoping to raise enough cash to get his activist father released from a South African prison, Sizwe ďThe CobraĒ Biko (T.J. Storm) travels to America, smuggling diamonds he intends to sell on the black market. After being double-crossed by an old pal, Sizwe finds himself in a fight against mobster Goro Tanaka (Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa).
The filmmakers are trying to pass Black Cobra off as a bloody, violent, bone-crunching martial arts flick. Thatís not what the movie is, which is unfortunate, as being that sort of movie is the only thing that could possibly make it worth watching; it has absolutely nothing else going for it.
People who enjoy this sort of thing want and expect hard-R violence, non-stop action, and dizzying fights. You get none of that here. The bloodiest bit is a broken nose, and that comes in the first five minutes; the rest of the movie is practically bloodless (in every possible sense of the word). In fact, the movieís rating comes not from the violence but rather from the number of f-bombs dropped (most of these, too, come early on).
The action is sparse, primarily relegated to the opening and the climax. Worse still, the fights are ineptly, lethargically staged, bathed in shadows I imagine are employed in hopes of obscuring the inept, lethargic staging, and edited in a way that makes it clear the filmmakers (Scott Donovan is credited as director; soap star Lilly Melgar gets a cryptic co-director credit) are simply trying to be trendy.
Much of the movie is...well, nothing. Sizwe spends a lot of time hanging out with a few wannabe thugs (played by three guys who have no business attempting to act), guys who throw parties in a house one of them obviously inherited from his grandmother, plying cheap hookers with vodka and tales of their days growing up with Snoop (come for the action, stay for the homages to The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and Martin).
Thereís also a lot of stuff involving a couple of cops who are either following Sizwe or following the guys Sizwe is looking to do business with (it never becomes clear); these cops spend most of their scenes explaining the plot and backstory to each other, awkwardly imparting a mix of information they should already know or couldnít possibly know. Thereís a subplot involving Sizweís jealous fiancťe, whoís convinced heís come to America looking to score some strange; this goes nowhere. And there are constant flashbacks to the movieís opening scene, each subsequent recycling revealing a little more information, the final one revealing something anyone paying attention will undoubtedly have already figured out.
I donít want to give anything away here, but the climactic smackdown offers no satisfaction. After battling guys in Noh masks and fending off a sword-wielding baddie (whose sword is seemingly good only for slicing up boxes full of packing peanuts), the movie peters out, denying those who stick with it a confrontation that is hinted at early on in favor of some lame juxtaposition regarding father-son relationships. Who wants that?
The 2.35:1 anamorphic transfer is hobbled by the movieís original photography. Exteriors benefit from available light, and some of the more brightly lit interiors donít look too bad (relatively speaking), but the fight scenes are bathed in darkness, and some of the action is obscured by all those shadows. Thereís also some noticeable artifacting, as well as some moderately harsh noise.
The sole audio option is a Dolby Digital 5.1 track. The audio is slightly superior to the video, but itís not all that active or weighty. The stereo spreadís not bad, but thereís not a whole lot going on in the rears. Punches and whatnot donít sound too bad, and thereís a bit of low-end action, but thereís never any doubt this is a micro-budget affair. English and Spanish subtitles are available.
A few deleted scenes (11 minutes) and an alternate ending (1 minute), many of which are presented as raw B-roll footage, add nothing.
You also get a blooper reel (8 minutes).
Closing things out is the movieís trailer.
Iím not sure what audience the filmmakers had in mind, but I canít imagine anyone getting anything out of Black Cobra.