Maniac Cop 2
Written by Larry Cohen
Directed by William Lustig
Maniac Cop is crazy. Maniac Cop 2 is crazy to the infinite power! Imagine everything from the first film, but turned up to 11. Director William Lustig said he usually has a need to top himself, and since he had done so much with Maniac Cop, he felt he just had to keep pushing for the sequel. The result is what he considers his best film, and was my favorite of the screenings. Lustig described this entry as Frankenstein meets The French Connection
William Lustig said he and stunt coordinator Spiro Razatos watched a lot of Hong Kong action cinema in Chinatown theaters, which gave them inspiration on how to handle a lot of the scenes. And with that statement, suddenly the inspiration for what happens in certain sequences is clear. It’s not a direct riff, but the manic energy and just visceralness of Hong Kong cinema is what’s used to power scenes of Maniac Cop blasting his way through a police station, or the crazy car chase on flaming rims while Susan Riley (Claudia Christian) is handcuffed to the steering wheel. There is even an extended fight sequence while Maniac Cop is on fire! This is all real, no CG or anything (though Lustig did say he used a bit of digital work on the digital print to erase wires that were now too visible, and to touch up the flames that were too dim under the restoration. But nothing major, and it doesn’t show.)
I saw Maniac Cop 2 at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in their Bay Area Now 7 program, under the Invasion of the Cinemaniacs! heading, specifically the part curated by Jesse Hawthorne Ficks of Midnite for Maniacs, who hosted two William Lustig triple features (a sextuple feature?) spread across two days. All three Maniac Cop films screened on Saturday night, while Friday featured Maniac, Vigilante, and Hit List. William Lustig returned for the second night of screenings and gave some more entertaining Q and As, some of which is peppered into the Maniac Cop reviews.
Set right after Maniac Cop yet somehow jumping from March to December (just ignore that bit!), Maniac Cop 2 begins with the ending of the original, the jumps right to a robbery in progress that the Maniac Cop stops…by shooting the store own and the cops on the scene and thus framing the robber. Maniac Cop continues on a killing spree as such, slaying cops and others take the fall, while last movie’s heroes Teresa Mallory (Laurene Landon) and Jack Forrest (Bruce Campbell) are cleared of trouble, but no one believes them when they say the Maniac Cop is still alive. Soon they are bumped off as we move to this film’s heroes, Detective Sean McKinney (Robert Davi being the most Robert Davi he can be) and Police Counselor Susan Riley (Claudia Christian). McKinney knows something strange is going on, and he’s one of those tough cops who’s not into things like therapy.
Susan Riley begins to believe Teresa Mallory that the Maniac Cop is still alive, and gets actual confirmation when he attacks, leading to the awesome car rim chase scene that results in Susan being handcuffed to the steering wheel of a car while outside the door and the car barreling down the highway. This is one of the best stunt sequences of all time, and it is also inspired by Hong Kong cinema, but not in the way you think. In Police Story, Lustig noticed that in one action sequence all these things were going down a hill, and a lady was handcuffed to a car, so he assumed the car would soon be moving. It never did, but his imagination got the best of him and thus we now have this amazing scene.
The Frankenstein influences are hidden, with Leo Rossi’s Turkell as an Igor character, complete with his brick apartment being a mini-Universal set. Maniac Cop is even more scarred and disfigured, a silent lumbering giant who barely speaks but let’s Turkell bounce around and be friendly. The Frankenstein parallels go even further in Part 3. Maniac Cop Matt Cordell has a plan, and that plan is to raise an army to overthrow the corrupt people who destroyed his career and his life. An army of criminals. Thus the jail is attacked, and soon things go off the rails with revenge being revenged, Maniac Cop on fire, people he touches turning on fire, giant explosions, and Detective McKinney solving the case in a way that doesn’t involve a lot of shooting.
Leo Rossi is unrecognizable as the serial killer Turkell, I didn’t think he was the same actor as in Hit List until I saw the cast list. It’s an amazing performance of someone unhinged, with shades of Maniac thrown in. Z’Dar puts in another winning performance as the near-silent Matt Cordell, this time with even more makeup. Clarence Williams III makes a welcome appearance as another psychotic criminal, just happy to be along for the ride. Good supporting roles from Michael Lerner as a corrupt chief, Charles Napier as a tv host, and Paula Trickey as a stripper lying to her folks about her job.
Maniac Cop 2 is just pure insane fun, a B movie dream that does more than some high budget films with the stunts, and definitely entertains more than many of them. Things combine into a winning package that is highly recommended. Don’t forget to stay for the credits to experience the amazing Maniac Cop 2 Rap!
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