Monday, April 23, 2012
You have the right to remain silent. Forever: Maniac Cop (1988)
starring: Tom Atkins, Bruce Campbell and Laurene Landon
The underbelly of New York city is under the prowl of a maniac in blue uniform. Killing random people at night, the Maniac Cop has caused a stir among law enforcers and citizens alike, plunging the city into panic as innocent bystanders began fearing their protectors and, in some extent, even ended up killing some.
Caught in this predicament is one Jack Forrest (Bruce Campbell, B-movie god and all around good guy), who was caught cheating on his wife one night and, later, suspected to be her murderer after she's found slaughtered the next day. Wrongfully accused, Jack's only hope of clearing his name falls to his girlfriend, Theresa Mallory (Laurene Landon) and his friend, Frank McCrae (Tom Atkins, fellow B-movie star and other all around good guy) who's initial police work and investigation goes deeper into a secret involving a wrongfully convicted cop out for revenge.
Perfectly merging cop-out action flick with the butchery and horror of slasher films, Maniac Cop is William Lustig's other strong cult classic, next to his masterpiece Maniac. Though it isn't any improvement on anything as a slasher , it is B-grade magic that's worth respecting thanks to it's watchable set-pieces and intriguing plot line.
Executing hysteria while playing on societal fears of political correctness and people abusing their powers as an authority figure, Maniac Cop's theme stand out among the rest of the late 80s cheese fest of teenagers getting mauled, sliced or liquefied by line-cracking killers. The script, though weak, has a plot that actually goes somewhere, lending itself to other film genres other than horror and opening opportunities on borders untouched by other slasher movies, taking a jab on the cliched action flick plot of a wronged man desperate to prove his innocence (complete with moles!) showing that a hybrid is entertaining so long as it can talk both lines with a straight face. Not to say it isn't without it's plot holes and short-comings; it isn't new in a film of this genre but so to speak, it handled its narrative pretty good despite this.
The performances of the B-films stars also made the cast an interesting one. Cult favorites Bruce Campbell of the Evil Dead Trilogy and Tom Atkins of Night of the Creeps, both got their fair share of screen time still nail their roles with much flavor you could had hoped in a low-budget film. I find Laurene Landon's character a stretch on the usual clean-girl cliche of a final girl; she's a mistress, and yet she's given a role to prove herself worthy of surviving and that is her spunk and hardened role to, not only save her boyfriend, but also put a stop on a maniac hellbent on terrorizing New York. Robert Z'Dar plays said maniac, Matt Cordell, who's chin maybe the only one i saw who can rival Campbell's. His role isn't exactly anything unusual, he's a basic mute boogeyman in a cop's uniform, who possesses superhuman strength, invincibility and a sharp bladed baton. He relies a lot on body language, which is all I could ask for a psycho to do, and he does it fairly. My only complaint is his cheap-looking scar make-up, but it is better compared to the exaggerated, zombie likeness in the sequel.
There isn't much gore in here, despite it's huge bodycount, surprising since Lustig's debut slasher is anything but viscera. Maniac Cop relied on cheap bone breaking and shoot-outs, much to answer this film's action flick influence, which kicks in full throttle at the last few minutes, exercising build-up and creative direction to makes up for it's nearly tame nature, and it's no short of interest as well; especially with a finale that's loaded with stunts and a brief car action.
Maniac Cop, though average in every way, somehow made it all the way to be refreshingly entertaining. Showing constraint from the reliance of blood and guts to shock and entertain, Maniac Cop's imaginative backdrop is enough to keep this film watchable and a certified cult classic.
1 female had her neck broken
1 male had his face slashed with bladed police baton
1 male hand-cuffed and forced, face-first, into wet cement
1 male shot on the head
1 female found with throat cut
1 male found hanged
1 female bludgeoned against he wall
1 male found beaten against prison bars
1 male found garroted and hanged
1 male found hanged
1 male seen with throat cut
1 male thrown off a building, falls to his death
1 male stabbed with bladed police baton
1 male stabbed to death with bladed police baton
1 male stabbed on the gut with bladed police baton
1 male hit by a van
1 male shot with shotgun
1 male killed offscreen (in some versions)