As a general rule, most sequels tend to pale compared to the original, but there are exceptions, and while the makers of Maniac Cop 2 do regurgitate two chunks of material from the first film [M] – the opening dock crash where Matt Cordell (the eponymous maniac) supposedly dies), and Cordell’s recollection of being convicted, then led through prison, and later stabbed by inmates in the shower – director William Lustig and writer / producer Larry Cohen pull off a small miracle by making a slightly different, but equally awesome follow-up.
Cohen brings back several prior characters – major and minor – and even pulls a Psycho twist by getting rid of two important figures early into the narrative – but the story remains true to its B-movie origins and plays up the surreal aspect of a brain-damaged cop who returns for further revenge even though he’s still rotting from incipient decay. The fact he remembers his name is remarkable, but it’s also part of the amusement as Cordell, in need of a hideaway after some high-profile kills, finds shelter via a serial killer named Turkell (bear-faced Leo Rossi, fresh from Lustig’s Relentless), who ‘saves’ pretty girls from prostitution and stripping by cutting their throats.
While Turkell thinks he’s found a kindred spirit he can control in Cordell, Cordell seems to sulk and ponder His Great Purpose until a spectacular finale where he regains independence from Turkell, gets his name cleared after blackmailing the mayor, and is again supposedly killed in a manner that makes a sequel impossible.
The police storyline has leads Jack Forrest (Bruce Campbell) and Teresa Mallory (now engaged) ‘replaced’ on the case by Det. McKinney (Robert Davi, fresh from Predator 2) and police shrink Susan Riley (Claudia Christian), while the city mayor (Michael Lerner) sends a gauntlet after Cordell before further carnage ensues.
Lustig’s production was blessed with a great cast of character actors: Paula Trickey plays the film’s titillation epicenter, a stripper almost killed by hairball Rossi; Clarence Williams III and Danny Trejo play goofy inmates; Charles Napier has an amusing bit as a reality show host; Marco Rodriguez literally reprises his role of a greasy convenience shop robber from Cobra [M] (1986); and Sam Raimi upgrades his prior Maniac Cop cameo from street reporter to newscaster.
More so than in the first film, the sequel contains even more superbly choreographed car stunts which have stunt men & women maneuvering out-of-control vehicles through dangerous obstacles, yet causing a high quotient of vehicular mash-ups; and there’s Cordell’s fiery prison walk - an amazing pre-CGI sequence. (It’s hard no to believe Dario Argento wasn’t inspired by the bravura stunt to riff the concept of an unstoppable fiery man in Mother of Tears).
Cohen’s script boosts the wise-cracking humour quotient, and it’s a slick & simple narrative with nary a dull spot. Jay Chattaway’s score is more orchestral this time (sometimes evoking a bit of Jerry Fielding’s harmonic style), and the great main title sequence was designed by Pablo Ferro (!), better know for To Live and Die in L.A. (1985), The Thomas Crown Affair (1968), and Dr. Strangelove (1964).
Lustig would immediately follow-up with Maniac Cop 3: Badge of Silence [M] (1993) and make two more feature films – uncredited work on The Expert (1995), and the Cohen-scripted Uncle Sam (1997) - before retiring from feature filmmaking and concentrating on his home video company, Blue Underground.
© 2011 Mark R. Hasan