It is widely acknowledged that the action film has been one of Hollywood's most successful products over the last three decades or so. However, many commentators, both popular and academic, continue to marginalize or dismiss the value of the action film as a critical, socially conscious, and aesthetically potent artefact. Scholarship that has approached the action film has tended to be based upon readings of gender and political ideology. Aesthetic readings of 1980s action films (the decade when the genre was at its peak), such as Eric Lichtenfeld's Action Speaks Louder (2004), have tended to be dismissive of the films as examples of propagandistic, exceedingly patriotic 'Reaganite entertainments'. It is the intention of this article, through a close analysis of George P. Cosmatos' 1986 film Cobra, to demonstrate that - rather than simply a piece of replicatory right-wing propaganda - the 1980s action film (and action cinema in general) challenges the notions of American political identity, patriotism and heroism upon which it is founded, thereby opening the way for a deeper critical understanding of American cultural and mythical impulses at large.


action cinema, American heroism, Sylvester Stallone, American culture, Hollywood, political propaganda, the western, urban alienation

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