Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Film Review: MANIAC COP 2 (1990, William Lustig)

Stars: 4 of 5.
Running Time: 90 minutes.
Notable Cast or Crew: Written by Larry Cohen. Music by Jay Chattaway. Starring Robert Z'Dar (Face in TANGO & CASH), Robert Davi (THE GOONIES), Clarence Williams III (52 PICK-UP, TWIN PEAKS), Charles Napier (SOMETHING WILD, SILENCE OF THE LAMBS), Bruce Campbell, Danny Trejo, Michael Lerner (BARTON FINK, THE CANDIDATE), Claudia Christian (A GNOME NAMED GNORM), and Leo Rossi (RIVER'S EDGE, LEONARD PT. 6).

Tag-line: "You Have The Right To Remain Silent...Forever!"
Best one-liner: "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."

I had fairly low expectations for MANIAC COP 2, but somehow ended up liking it better than the first. Though parts of it lag, writer Larry Cohen (ITS ALIVE, Q) and director Bill Lustig (VIGILANTE, MANIAC) punctuate the film with visually inventive and darkly humorous setpieces. The main title is accompanied by a cacophony of slice n' dice sound effects, and the opening involves a bodega robbery where a psycho, upon learning there's no cash, forces the clerk to start scratching off instant lotto tickets. The sequence is played for frenetic laughs, but the genuine deranged quality of the robber and some effective mood lighting make the scene quite eerie and artistic, and far better than it ought to be- a sentiment that could be applied to the film as a whole.

The Maniac Cop teams up with a Times Square slasher (who was meant to be played by Joe Spinell, R.I.P., the original MANIAC) and protagonist duties fall upon the bland but serviceable Claudia Christian (THE HIDDEN) and Robert Davi (THE GOONIES, DIE HARD), who delivers another excellent method performance as Robert Davi.

Jaw-dropping highlights include the Maniac Cop's TERMINATOR-style assault on a police station, which begins with a shooting range (that shoots back!) and ends with the truly macabre imagery of the Cop casually walking through layers of plate glass as if they were cobwebs.

There're amusing bit parts by Danny Trejo and Clarence Williams III as incredulous prisoners, and it leads to a ludicrous asbestos suit finale at the Maniac Cop's former penitentiary.

Now, Lustig is a true aficionado of bodies flung from buildings (he included THE STONE KILLER in one of his annual 'Bill Lustig presents' NYC screening series!), and the mind-blowing sight he posits here (two flaming bodies spiraling downward in slow mo) may just take the cake!

It all ends with a rap that's somehow a cross between the verse of 'Rico Suave' and the whistling melodies of Ennio Morricone. "Set 'im on fire, or shoot 'im with an Uzi/ But he'll still show up in your Jacuzzi. They killed him once/ but he came back/ he's the m-m-m-m-m-m-maniac! I know it sounds like jive/ we're not sure if he's dead or alive." Bravo.

-Sean Gill

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