Maniac Cop is a movie of great potential that it only begins to realize. A fusion of slasher movie and action movie, it tells the story of Matt Cordell, a hero cop who gets sent to prison by his corrupt superiors. While in prison, Cordell is wounded and left brain-dead but goes on a killing spree dressed as a beat cop. Cordell cuts a bloody swath across New York City as the real police circle around an unwitting patsy (Bruce Campbell) and a homicide detective (Tom Atkins) circles around the truth. Directed by William Lustig and written by Larry Cohen, Maniac Cop is a spiritual sequel to Maniac but one that doesn’t quite deliver on the gruesome delights that Maniac did. The film would spawn two sequels and a spiritual sequel in the film Uncle Sam, which is essentially Maniac Veteran.
Matt Cordell didn’t really die at the end of the first movie and within the first act he dispatches the heroes of the first film (Bruce Campbell doesn’t even live for 20 minutes.) A police psychologist (Claudia Christian) and a gravel-voiced no-nonsense detective (Robert Davi) try to track down the truth behind Cordell and end his reign of terror. Meanwhile, Cordell plans to sow the seeds of discord in the city and enlists the help of a serial killer (Leo Rossi) to do it.
Does It Hold Up?
It’s a massive improvement over the first. I like Maniac Cop but it’s just a notch above mediocre. I own it, but I also own Bud the C.H.U.D. and The Howling 2 so that’s no big achievement. I really wish Bruce Campbell had a bigger role in part two or they had went the Friday the 13th Part V route and had Robert Davi turn out to be a copycat maniac cop but I’m willing to just skip ahead to Friday the 13th Part VI.
The slasher motif is almost entirely gone. Cordell only uses his billy club sword once and most of the action is more akin to The Terminator than Friday the 13th. The action set-pieces in part 2 are amazing: a car chase involving a taxi driving on two tireless rims, a woman handcuffed to the side of a car careening down the longest hill in the world, a police station massacre that makes the T-600’s look tame, and a scene where our titular villain is on fire for a really long time.
I am a bit disappointed that it never comes down to a showdown between Cordell and Davi’s characters but the ending is sufficiently pleasing. And there is a murderer’s row of great cult actors in here like Charles Napier, Clarence Williams III, and Marco Rodriguez. There’s even a non-speaking cameo by Danny Trejo at one point.
Leo Rossi steals some scenes as Cordell’s serial killer buddy who reminds me way too much of Zach Galifianakis playing his dweeby fictional brother. I have read that the role was originally intended to be played by the original Maniac’s Joe Spinell presumably as the same character (though that explanation would be dubious at best.) But unfortunately, Spinell died before he could film the role and the film was dedicated to his memory.
Watch, Toss, Or Buy?
Where Can I Find It?
A Blu-Ray/DVD version is available from Blue Underground.