Tagline: You have the right to remain silent forever…..Again!
Director: William Lustig
Writer: Larry Cohen
Starring: Robert Davi, Claudia Christian, Michael Lerner, Bruce Campbell, Laurene Landon, Robert Z’Dar, Clarence Williams III, Leo Rossi
18 | 1hr 30min | Comedy, Horror
Budget: $4,000,000 (estimated)
Robert Z’ Dar’s Matt Cordell is perhaps the genre’s most underappreciated seek-and-destroy killer, an irrepressible force who in 1988‘s Maniac Cop returned to enact vengeance on those city officials who had wronged him, and anyone else who happened to get in his way. Cordell was a zombified brute who would careen off a New York dock to his seeming demise. But there was no way this character was going to be put to rest so easily. He simply had too much potential.
Still, Lustig was initially dead against making a sequel to his original slice of of exploitation sleaze. In an interview with WithoutYourHead.com, the director would say of the prospect, “When the idea of Maniac Cop 2 came about, I was really reluctant to do it because at that time, and even today, you put a 2 at the end of a movie and it’s inevitably gonna suck. I mean, very few sequels are equal to or surpass the first movie, but when I read [Larry Cohen’s] script I was pleasantly surprised. I said ‘Wow! this is really good.’
So good is Lustig and Cohen’s second slasher collaboration that, for me, it far surpasses the first movie. It may not have the grainy charm of its predecessor, but it thunders on at a remorseless pace, upping both the violence and the satire and giving us the most brutal killing spree in all of slasher cinema with a record-breaking 33 kills in a single movie, many of them falling to the kind of cop station massacre that makes Arnold Schwarzenegger’s T-800 look like a fairy struck down with the flu.
Once again Z’Dar’s brutal creation is back with a vengeance, wielding chainsaws and snapping necks in a relentless siege on New York City’s grimy underbelly. With Tom Atkins’ whisky-swilling Frank McCrae long gone and the surviving cast quickly laid to waste with a Hitchcockian swiftness, the movie recruits another 80s legend to walk the preposterous path of correctional duty. Robert Davi plays Detective Sean McKinney, a noirish cynic who takes the roll of impossibly dismissive cop to a whole new level. That is until soon-to-be main squeeze officer Susan Riley has a particularly brutal run-in with our eponymous maniac, resulting in one of the movie’s stand-out scenes.
From the film’s hyperbolic opening you know you’re in for something quite special. This a relentless exercise in the absurd, with a plethora of heady quirks that turn a potential retread into a carnival of brutal insanity. One of those quirks comes in the form of serial killer Turkell (Leo Rossi) who during a spate of murders somehow becomes friends with our mute psycho, a bizarre dynamic which would never have crossed the minds of most writers, but which works wonderfully in way that will delight fans of Cohen. Turkell has a taste for lap dancers and strikes a peculiar bond with Cordell, who plans to take his vengeance streak even further by seeking retribution on those prison thugs who scarred his face and left him for dead.
“The key to the Maniac Cop films is the actors don’t know they’re in a comedy,” Lustig would explain. “Everybody’s gotta play it straight, but what’s going on around them is ridiculous. That’s how I’ve always looked at the Maniac Cop films. They’ve got to play it with gravitas, and Robert Davi is perfect for that.” It’s a wonderful concept, and with the likes of Lustig and Cohen steering the ship, it is a concept that is played to the exquisite hilt. Add to this an antagonist like Cordell and the sky’s the limit.
Much has been made of exactly what Cordell is. His horrifically scarred face and ability to regenerate is reminiscent of Jason Voorhees, but his intangibility and vengeful mystique point to Michael Myers. Fundamentally, Cordell is a slasher variation on the walking dead, but Lustig sees his cult creation in an altogether different light. “If you look at Point Blank , you could look at it as a restless ghost movie about a gangster who comes back to get his revenge, and in the end when they give him his money, all he does is recede into the darkness…so in my mind that’s what Maniac Cop was. It was Lee Marvin in Point Blank.”
Quite the inspiration; an offbeat, yet effective comparison that results in one of the most enjoyable sequels in the entire sub-genre. This is a breakneck slasher with an oddly sympathetic monster whose redemption knows no bounds, and in spite of his initial trepidation, the ever heedful Lustig was more than pleased with the result. “I really, really worked hard to make it as good, if not better, than the first movie. I kind of looked at it as a new and improved version. I’m pleased at the way it came out. I think we succeeded.”
I, for one, would have to agree.
After a high speed chase involving Susan and Teresa, Cordell handcuffs the former to a tireless car and sends her careening along the highway. Seeing an opening, Teresa then attacks Cordell with a chainsaw, only for him to grab the weapon full throttle and throw it to the ground without suffering even a scratch. With Teresa now at our monster’s mercy, he grips her by the throat, brutally snapping her neck and throwing her lifeless body to the ground like a rag doll.
Most Absurd Moment
Talk about setting the tone in the first 5 minutes! After a no good junkie holds up a convenience store, Matt Cordell appears on the scene, but instead of helping the store owner he uses the junkie’s gun to blow him away. Afterwards, he hands the murder weapon to the junkie and slips out the back, framing the thief and leaving him at the mercy of the arriving cops. Surrendering to the police, the junkie is then pumped with a barrage of rounds, dancing around for an eternity before finally being blown ten feet through a plate glass window.
Most Absurd Movie Reference
In a delicious nod to James Cameron’s The Terminator, Cordell storms a police station, blowing away an entire fleet of cops during target practice. Walking through walls as if they’re not there, he then machine guns another two dozen cops to death, before sending the captain flying thirty feet across the room through three consecutive wooden beams and windows.
Arnie wouldn’t stand a chance.
Most Absurd Dialogue
Strolling through the graveyard with main squeeze Susan following Cordell’s funereal, the lovably cynical Detective McKinney offers a wry commentary on police brutality.
Detective Sean McKinney: There’s a piece of Cordell in every cop, every time arresting some mutt isn’t enough. Because we know they’ll be back on the streets before we even do the paperwork. Every time we pull a trigger and it feels good, because no lawyers can reverse that. It all comes down to justice and pressure. There’s only that much difference between a cop and a maniac cop.
Aliens, Terminator 2, and now William Lustig’s Maniac Cop 2, this is one of those rare sequels that arguably tops its antecedent. Bigger, brasher and wittier than the original, this is improbable meta-humour at its finest, while Robert Z’Dar’s Matt Cordell takes comic book brutality to a whole new level. Acerbic exploitation that is a joy to behold.