MANIAC COP, directed by William Lustig (VIGILANTE) and scripted by producer Larry Cohen (GOD TOLD ME TO), is a very good thriller, a clever blend of horror, action, and black humor. 1990's direct-to-video MANIAC COP 2 is the rare sequel that’s just as good, probably better than the original. Cohen and Lustig are back, as are Bruce Campbell (BURN NOTICE) and Laurene Landon (I, THE JURY), who play cop lovers, and—very importantly—stunt coordinator Spiro Razatos, who had a higher budget this time to stage bigger stunts, bigger chases, and bigger crashes.
Supernatural psycho cop Matt Cordell (super-chin Robert Z’Dar), the scarfaced slaughterer last seen sinking to a water grave at the end of MANIAC COP, is unsurprisingly revived and ready to wipe out more innocent New Yorkers. He has a partner this time, Steven Turkell (Leo Rossi), a bearded serial killer who targets exotic dancers.
On the case are hardboiled detective Sean McKinney (Robert Davi, fresh off playing the Bond villain in LICENSE TO KILL) and police shrink Susan Riley (THE HIDDEN stripper Claudia Christian). The story expands a little on the Cordell backstory served up in dollops in the first movie, while concocting cool setpieces for Lustig and Razatos to create—one highlight being Riley handcuffed to a runaway car…from the outside of it.
Also back for this sequel are cinematographer James Lemmo (RELENTLESS) and composer Jay Chattaway (MISSING IN ACTION), who provide much-needed continuity to Lustig’s tale and help make Cohen’s $4.1 million budget look like triple the cost. The murders aren’t excessively gory, as the emphasis is on action, but they’re inventively staged for a good time.
The change in directors and the off-screen difficulties are evident in the obvious padding, including a silly dream sequence and extraneous dialogue given to unimportant supporting characters, and the use of stock footage to fill holes in the story (some shots from MANIAC COP are used for the third time!). Cohen’s plot is overly involved this time, bringing in a voodoo priest (Harris) to resurrect maniac Matt Cordell (Z’Dar again, though who else could play the role?) from the dead and send him out to kill more people.
Cordell has a purpose this time. Learning of a young police officer named Katie Sullivan (Gretchen Becker) who was shot during a robbery attempt that left her brain-dead and falsely accused of murder, the Maniac Cop sees her as a kindred soul and sets out to avenge her. Sullivan’s involvement brings Lieutenant Sean McKinney (Davi), the cop who chased Cordell in MANIAC COP 2, into the case.
That Razatos received a rare credit card during the opening titles (as he did in MANIAC COP 2) says much about his importance to this film. With an inferior story and draggy direction, the action and kill scenes have to be strong counterbalances and, fortunately for the film, they are. The car chase that climaxes the film, which features stuntman Andy Gill on fire for the entire length of the chase, is one of cinema’s most underrated.