“You can’t kill the dead!”
Justin’s rating: All horror series should have their own rap song
Justin’s review: OK, I really wasn’t going to get any deeper into Larry Cohen’s Maniac Cop trilogy after being thoroughly underwhelmed by the first movie. That one felt like a huge waste of Bruce Campbell and a quirky villain, probably because it was shot in a tearing hurry and on a shoestring budget.
But I kept hearing that the sequel was actually a significant step up in terms of production values and entertainment, so with lessons from Critters 2 still fresh in my mind, I gave it a shot.
After an eerie opening of a cop car junkyard, Maniac Cop 2 reminds us that somewhat-undead former police officer Matt Cordell (Robert Z’Dar) is still rocking his lethal beat. This time around, the filmmakers have some fun with the concept and have Cordell start recruiting followers to further his vaguely defined mission of revenge. That’s kind of original for a slasher, don’t you agree? I mean, can you picture Jason or Freddy hiring henchmen?
Not too long into this movie, a cinematic felony happens: Bruce Campbell is unceremoniously killed, as his cop girlfriend from the first movie. This is all to make room for the sequel’s new leads, Babylon 5’s Claudia Christian and Goonies’ Robert Davi. Both Christian and Davi are welcome as leads, but considering the overall quality increase of this movie, it feels like such a shame that Campbell gets less than three minutes of screentime. Oh well.
As the new buddy cops go on a second round of investigations to figure out who this killer is (no one believes the heroes from the first movie, naturally), Cordell enlists the help of a serial killer named Turkell to perform a death row jailbreak.
But what’s quite odd about this series is that Cordell — despite his “excessive brutality” in his life and his homicidal rampage in his death — gets a backstory that tries to make the audience somewhat sympathetic toward him. Call me crazy, but I don’t think that this is a “have your cake and eat it too” kind of situation.
If Maniac Cop was a little too reserved with its action and kills, Maniac Cop 2 fills its runtime with enough wild and presumably dangerous stunts to cover both movies — and then some. Guys go flying out of windows, smash down on a van, and then roll off on a run. A cop gets hung off of a tow truck hook and driven down NYC’s streets. A woman gets handcuffed to a car that’s rolling down a hill. There’s a chase scene with cars driving on sparking rims. And there are so, so many stunt people lit on fire that I’m genuinely surprised this movie isn’t dedicated to the memory of at least three of them.
By far, the best point of the moment is when Cordell summons his best T-800 impression and smashes his way through a police station, gunning everyone down. He up and walks through walls, throws one guy through four walls AND a door, and busts his serial killer buddy out of a holding cell.
My only big complaint, other than the Bruce thing, is that the film is weirdly stingy with showing Cordell’s face. Considering the amazing new zombie makeup, that’s kind of a missed opportunity.
Maniac Cop 2 is far more of an action movie with slight horror elements than an actual scary movie, and it benefits greatly from that approach. If you have to see only one movie in this trilogy, this is it, baby.
Also, don’t miss this film’s greatest legacy, which was bestowing upon the world the Grammy-winning Maniac Cop Rap:
- Nothing like a 2:30 recap of the previous movie’s climax to kick off your sequel!
- This guy has absolutely horrible teeth. Please stop smiling, armed robber.
- The tow truck death!
- Racing around on rims
- Chainsaws don’t work on the dead
- Serial killers can be quite hospitable
- The police station rampage, with Cordell walking through walls
- People fighting each other while on fire. It’s pretty awesome.
- Falling through the roof of a bus while on fire will blow the bus up