Oh, Maniac Cop 2, how I love you…
By the late 1980’s/early 90’s, the Horror Movie Machine was running on empty. Beloved franchises such as Friday the 13th, A Nightmare on Elm Street, Halloween, and even Texas Chainsaw Massacre, had run its course and was gasping for breath. The thing with most horror sequels is that they are usually xerox copies of the first one, but running low on ink. Of course, while it also depends on the template, for Maniac Cop in 1988, there was plenty of upside potential. The debut makes the retro spectacles still fun; but Maniac Cop 2 makes everything right. The lines have been drawn, Director William Lustig & Producer/Writer Larry Cohen crafted what is in all respects a film that is better than the original. Lustig, whose credits include such horror gems as Maniac, Maniac Cop, and Uncle Sam, had an eye for bringing out the scummy, seedy look of New York in the 80’s.
Sure, Bruce Campbell could have used more screen time (unlike the painfully long Laurene Landon scenes), but killing off the heroes of the first film, thereby making room for other characters, leads into Robert Davi (The Goonies) as a “shoot first, then ask” Detective in “Dirty Harry” tradition, who is a worthy replacement, actually an opponent of an equal footing for the undead lawman. The tempo is right, and even the plot is allowed to come up with something fresh. Maniac Cop Cordell will no longer appear just like a zombie, but as a killer with a plan, which gives the film a whole extra spice and a crisp.
The horror is straight laced, and the action is over the top, in your face, AWESOME! Not to mention the police station massacre shootout that actually rivals the Terminator (1984). With a solid cast: Robert Davi, Claudia Christian (Babylon 5), Michael Lerner (Hill Street Blues, Harlem Nights), and appearances by Clarence Williams III (Tales from the Hood, The Mod Squad), Charles Napier (Rambo 2, The Blues Borthers), and Danny Trejo (Machete)
But the real tour de force is the performance of Leo Rossi (Fast Getaway, Halloween 2), who plays the Charles Manson lookalike, Turkell, a sleazy serial killer who targets strippers. He steals every scene that he is in…even from the main man himself, Cordell.
With Robert Davi chewing his scenes like a $2.00 steak, the late Robert Z’Dar giving a menacing performance that rivals Jason Voorhees, Leo Rossi’s energetic psycho, and with non-stop action, you have the ingredients for a classic, and ridiculously fun film!
With a second sequel, Maniac Cop 3: Badge of Silence, Lustig proved he had more to say about our favorite rotting officer, mixing elements of Voodoo, Bride of Frankenstein, and more action…but that’s a review for another time.