I enjoyed “Maniac Cop” recently, but had been told by a few smart people that part 2 was better, that director William Lustig and writer/producer Larry Cohen had figured out what worked and what didn’t and built on the strengths. And those smart people were absolutely right – “Maniac Cop 2” is a stronger, leaner, more fun movie, with its weaknesses buried way down and its strengths magnified. Plus, it’s got an amazing purpose-written rap song playing over the end credits! One of my favourite movie things is when they have a song which is about the movie – in fact, I might make a compilation of them one day.
What “Maniac Cop 2” does is bring the slasher movie subtext out, front and centre. This is about a horribly disfigured, supernaturally powerful killer with a very strange moral code, who relentlessly pursues his goal, slaughtering everyone who gets in his way (although he does hide his actions quite cleverly at the beginning). We see Matt Cordell (the late great Robert Z’Dar) thanks to this movie repeating the last few minutes of part 1, getting a metal bar to the chest and driving into the bay, but as part 2 starts – with Bruce Campbell and Laurene Landon being cleared by the Commissioner – he’s nowhere to be found, as he wasn’t recovered with the dredged police truck he was driving. But you know that he’s just biding his time before going back to work!
The Commissioner is still trying to stick to the line of part 1, that it’s just a large psychopath dressed in a police outfit, but luckily this rather pointless stance is mostly ignored. As Campbell and Landon are both dispatched – in classic slasher movie fashion – fairly quickly into the sequel by a revitalised Cordell, with grey skin, horrible scars and a missing nose. Now, this might be a problem with HD versions of the movie, but as they try and half-hide Cordell’s face, it’s mostly visible on several occasions, making the big reveal when it comes a little anti-climactic. But anyway.
The stunts, thanks to Spiro Razatos (who’d go on to do the stunts for “The Expendables”, the last three “Fast and Furious” and the two “Captain America” movies) are superb, and are peppered liberally throughout the movie. The two new stars – Robert Davi as Detective Sean McKinney and Claudia Christian as police psychologist Susan Riley – are put through the ringer, most memorably as Christian is handcuffed to the wheel of a car (from the outside) then the car is pushed down a hill. But there’s tons of great action, to go along with Cordell’s slaughtering.
There is a plot, in case you were wondering. Leo Rossi is Turkell, a deranged fella who sees it as his job to clean up the filth from the streets – he’s killed a number of strippers before he and Cordell cross paths. The two of them form a friendship, of sorts, and even though Cordell utters one word (his name) they’re able to communicate. Anyway, Rossi is eventually caught, which gives them an idea – take a guy who’s about to be committed to Sing Sing prison, pretend to be his guards to gain access, then slaughter their way through the prison to bust out everyone on Death Row and form an army of psychopaths. Oh, and while he’s there Cordell can get revenge on the people who “killed” him when he was an inmate there too, which is a nice bonus.
McKinney and Riley, while initially sceptical, meet Cordell themselves and head up the search for him, going over the head of the Commissioner to the press (again). I like their little team – not a hint of romance, but a believable friendship. Also, I reckon Robert Davi and Claudia Christian must have quite enjoyed the chance to star in a movie, and they’re both excellent. They give fairly straight police-thriller performances, even though they’re in a slasher movie, and I like it. Oh, and popping up in an entirely wordless cameo is Danny Trejo as “Prisoner”. That guy got around.
But all this plot and investigation is really just a framework on which to hang some brilliant set-pieces. Seeing Cordell shoot his way through a police station (never mind how a grey-skinned zombie monster got in there in the first place) is super-exciting, and the final set piece in Sing Sing is brilliantly done as well. Although…the way they finish off the Maniac Cop, by clearing his name of the stuff which landed him in prison in the first place and giving him an official police burial, making sure the corrupt cops admit to their crimes too, is a fascinating way of doing things.
It’s a huge improvement over part 1, a tense, tight, gore packed, stunt packed, little gem of a movie. I’m moderately afraid part 3 will be a flop, but after two such strong entries, this series is already strongly in the “win” column for me.
Rating: thumbs up