Maniac Cop (1988)
WRITER: Larry Cohen
DIRECTOR: William Lustig
STARRING: Tom Atkins as Frank McCrae
Bruce Campbell as Jack Forrest
Laurene Landon as Theresa Mallory
Richard Roundtree as Commissioner Pike
William Smith as Captain Ripley
Robert Z'Dar as Matt Cordell
Sheree North as Sally Noland
QUICK CUT: BRUCE CAMPBELL VERSUS ROBERT Z'DAR! WHICH CHIN WILL WIN??
Jack Forrest - A young officer with the NYPD who has a violent past, a rocky marriage, and all the prime characteristics to be a main suspect in a series of murders.
Frank McCrae - A lieutenant with the police looking into the series of murders. He's a good cop, with a good head on his shoulders.
Theresa Mallory - Jack's mistress, a fellow cop working Vice, and pretty tenacious.
Commissioner Pike - The man in charge of the whole NYPD, and he may as well be the mayor from Jaws. He doesn't wanna hear about any maniac cops, and he'd be more than happy for this all to go away so he can get on with the St. Patrick's Day parade.
Matt Cordell - An overzealous cop who would go to great lengths to get his collar, and was a bit of the sort to put an end to a criminal right there and then if it means cleaning up the streets. This naturally causes problems with his bosses...
THE GUTS: Welcome back, Triskelions! Now, okay, in all honesty, Maniac Cop probably doesn't fit my definition of 'classic/franchise' movie for my 1st of the month selections, but it DOES have two sequels, and it DOES have a pedigree with the unrelated "Maniac" which I reviewed way back when. And some people absolutely do consider this a classic. Honestly, I just wanted to review it forever, and I decided to do it today. So nyar.
The movie dives right in as we follow a young woman on her way home, who gets assaulted by some gang members lurking in the shadows. Please, please don't be wearing owl masks...
She does a surprisingly good job of beating them down, and runs away. She fortunately finds a cop who lifts her into the air, and snaps her neck...wait. Hey, that is NOT regulation.
Lt. Frank McCrae comes by to check on the body after the gangbangers are arrested and presumably tell their story. Everyone assumes it was the gang members, but McCrae's not so sure because of her injuries.
Meanwhile, a couple stops at a long light and starts making out, when the same cop stops by to ask some questions. He motions for the driver to get out and whips a sword our of his billy club. Hey, that is NOT standard issue!!
The cop slashes the kid across the face a few times, then hurls him back into the car. Well, why did you ask him to get out in the first place...
McCrae's theory that it's a cop is not making him any friends, so he's called in by Commissioner Shaft to discuss his theory. The boss is more than happy to assume it's just someone trying to discredit the force.
We also get a minor infodump that McCrae tried to commit suicide after his partner died in the line of duty, and he hasn't been the same ever since.
The movie starts to set up a pattern at this point of plot scene followed by murder scene, as we jump to another moment of our titular Maniac Cop grabbing some random dude, cuffing him, and trying to stab him too. At least this one manages to run away. He would've gotten away with it to, if it wasn't for those kids and their meddling cement that he slipped in and got his face shoved into.
Back to the plot, McCrae meets with a reporter friend, who coins the title, er the term Maniac Cop. His goal is to have her sensationalise the story, announce it's a cop, and light a fire under city hall's ass.
The downside being, once the story breaks, it causes a panic. A woman has a cop come over when her car stalls, and rather than deal with him like a normal cop, she grabs the gun in her purse and shoots the actual innocent officer in the face.
After the commissioner has a meeting with his pals, we get to meet a familiar face in Officer Jack Forrest. He's got a failing marriage, his wife is afraid of him, and she clearly thinks he's the maniac. He's the maniac, on the floor. And he's dancing like he's never danced before.
If they were being killed by a chainsaw, she might be onto something, but no, this is just a red herring. After he leaves for work, we find out why his wife thinks this, because she's being prompted by a Mysterious Voice over the phone blaming him for the murders.
His wife follows him to a nearby motel, and you can probably guess what Jack is really sneaking off to do. A clue: it's not murder. Yep, he's having an affair. She waves a gun around then runs away distraught. This is most not-groovy.
Jason Voorhees mom comes by to clean the room the next day, and finds Jack and his mistress checked out, but she does find the dead body of Jack's wife. Oh, that's not gonna look good.
Captain Ripley drags Jack out of the morning meeting, to break the bad news. It especially doesn't look good thanks to Ellen keeping clippings of all the Maniac murders, and writing her thoughts down in a journal.
Ripley is more than happy to go along with Jack as the killer, and mentions a similar case from 18 years ago. McCrae's not so sure though, and sure Forrest's being set up by someone.
McCrae goes off in search of Officer Mallory, working undercover as a hooker, Jack's mistress and alibi. Unfortunately, the Maniac Cop shows up first and tries to kill her and remove the alibi.
Unfortunately for HIM, she's packing heat and shoots him a few times, just as McCrae shows up. He's clearly wearing a vest, or Jason Voorhees himself, since the guy does not drop after half a dozen shots to the chest. But this is all too much, and the Maniac Cop runs off.
The pair talk for a bit and Terry mentions the only person who knew where she was is a cop who works in filing, after getting an injury years ago. McCrae pays her a visit and she is clearly spooked by it, so he follows her once she leaves the station.
He follows her to an abandoned shipyard where she meets with the Maniac Cop, Matt Cordell, and she urges him to not get so stabby. At least, not until he can get to the mayor and the real corruption.
Because this is a movie, and nothing can be easy, McCrae knocks stuff over just as the conversation is getting interesting. The woman thinks it's just a cat, but by the time she turns back, Maniac Matt has pulled a Batman.
McCrae heads back to the station and digs up all the articles they have on Matt Cordell, a 'super cop' who liked to shoot first, and eventually got put in jail for his enthusiasm. Which led to his death. Ummm...
We get to kill time as the movie gives a mostly silent flashback from Cordell about his conviction, and going to jail. Oh, I hope he runs into Tango & Cash in prison.
After we watch Matt gets his face slashed up and supposedly killed, we jump back to Jack in holding, and his friends telling him about their theory. Which no one can explain, but that's why they're off to the medical examiner that pronounced him dead!
McCrae leaves the two lovejailbirds alone, and goes to check on Cordell's girlfriend. He finds the records room empty, briefly, until she shows up and beats the shit out of him with her cane.
She runs off before she finishes the job, and finds another cop hanging from the ceiling, showing Cordell has wandered by to clean up the mess.
Cordell grabs her through a door and drags her off to toss her around, until McCrae shows up to shoot some more. Then it's *his* turn to be thrown around by Cordell.
Jack and Terry hear the screams and somehow get out of the interrogation room, and find a few more dead cops. There's enough dead pig here to feed an entire army with BLTs for life.
Terry heads outside to McCrae's car to wait for Jack, but McCrae takes the express elevator down, thanks to Cordell defenestrating him.
So, our surviving heroes head off to talk to the ME that did the autopsy on Cordell, and released him to Sally. We get a flashback on the doc saving Cordell from the brink of death. And that they faked his death so he'd be safe from further retribution by criminals and cops alike, and he could live out his life in solitude and murderous bliss. So, how's that plan working out??
They head back to the city amidst the St. Patrick's Day parade, and Terry goes to try and convince Commissioner Shaft that there's a dead man on the loose.
Of course, that meeting doesn't go easily since it looks like Jack murdered an entire precinct, and Terry helped him escape. And they have a message from McCrae that the Maniac Cop was being helped by a woman officer.
Commissioner Shaft and Captain Ripley head off to the parade, despite Shaft being one of the men Cordell wants most dead, and they both walk straight into their executional. See, shoulda listened to Terry.
She gets taken into custody by an officier, which lasts all of five minutes as Cordell shows up to gut him like a fish. On the upside, Terry can now escape. On the downside, she's cuffed to dead weight.
Terry drags the body into an office, but Cordell bashes through the door. She picks up a chair and smashes a window, so she can escape to the ledge. Officer Chin meanwhile figures that throwing chairs out windows is not a new St. Patty's Day tradition, but just kinda stands there staring
Jack stands there long enough for all the other cops lurking around city hall to notice him and go, "Hey, that's the guy we're trying to catch, just standing right there! Right outside Police HQ!! What a marroon!"
They cuff him and toss him in the back of a prisoner transport, but Cordell shows up and calls shotgun. Any cop in his way gets tossed out of the way and he takes the truck.
We get a fun car chase, and Bruce gets to throw himself around the back of the paddy wagon, as only Bruce Campbell can. They eventually arrive at the pier where Cordell's been hiding, and we can get this climax going.
Theresa shows up and pretty much hands Cordell a shotgun, not that the guy needed it with the way he's been smashing faces against walls.
Speaking of faces, the movie has spent its entire runtime up to this point, cleverly hiding Cordell's face, to stave off the reveal, and to have fun with keeping him out of frame, like we see a lot of cops from our car windows.
Well, now we get to see his slashed up, scarred face, and it's a pretty decent reveal. Maybe not the best makeup job, but I like it. It's horrifying without being Freddy.
After killing the cop that gave Theresa a ride, Jack kicks the shotgun away, just so Cordell can hurl him around some more. You will never convince me that Sam Raimi wasn't involved in these last ten minutes, with the abuse Bruce takes. We KNOW he was nearby enough for a cameo.
Cordell hears sirens so hops in the truck to try and escape, while Jack grabs on to stop him. And gets punched a few more times, because Bruce rhymes with Abuse.
The Maniac Cop runs into a post that impales himself in the truck, maybe. It's unclear. But he's not a vampire!! Either way, he loses control and the truck takes a dive right off Pier 14.
Jack survives the crash, and after retrieving the truck from the water, he and Sally ride off into the sunset, leaving Cordell dead at the bottom of the river.
Video: A pretty solid presentation. Maybe a tad dull, but nothing too bad, and it looks good for late 80s indie fare.
Audio: Mmm, I could've used a bit more volume. I really had to crank things up quite a bit.
Sound Bite: "You must've been so afraid, Cassie. Then you saw a cop." Multiple levels of meaning by McCrae!
Body Count: This movie definitely brings it. It knows just how to pace things out, by starting with a death, then plot, then death, and back and forth. It slowly intertwines the plot and Cordell's rampage, until everything crashes together at the precinct. Now, since Matt likes tossing people around so much, I very likely missed one or two bit players. But even so, we've got all this...
1 - Poor Cassie on the run thinks she's saved by the Maniac Cop, who snaps her neck, six minutes into the flick.
2 - Kid gets slashed and tossed at a traffic light by the Maniac Cop.
3 - The Maniac Cop chases a guy and chokes him with cement.
4 - A Normal Cop gets shot in the head by a panicked citizen.
5 - Jack's wife gets slashed and left in a motel room
6 - Random cop is found hung in the station.
7 - Cordell kills Sally.
8 - Another cop at the interrogation room is crushed against cell bars.
9 - Another random pinata cop dangling from the ceiling.
10 - Random background cop dead on the stairs.
11 - Lt. Frank McCrae was killed in the line of duty when a fellow officier huffed him out a window, defenestrating the honoured officer.
12 - Commissioner Shaft gets stabbied by Cordell
13 - Followed immediate by Captain Ripley right next to him.
14 - Another officier down thanks to Cordell.
15 - And ANOTHER gets blasted away at the pier.
If you think I'm counting Cordell as dead, you've got another think coming.
Best Corpse: I'm going to say Frank's death, since he's the one character we know, it's memorable, and it's an amazing descender drop before they became commonplace.
Blood Type - B-: It's solid enough, and there's quite a bit of blood, but it's pretty average amounts. Slight bonus point for Cordell's makeup, but not good enough to do much.
Sex Appeal: Naked Robert Z'Dar!
Drink Up! Every time someone gets handcuffed.
Video Nasties: Just a quick clip this time out that showcases Cordell's ruthlessness as he chases down and chokes the guy with cement.
Movie Review: I'm not sure what I expected from this movie. Maniac was a lot of fun, but had a pretty broad plot, and got strange at times. But it was still well made. Maniac *COP* was a lot more focused, and used NYC well, had good atmosphere, and a rock solid cast. Bruce Campbell alone puts in a pretty amazing role, which shies away from his more comedic tone, as he plays it pretty straight. It was refreshing to see Baby Bruce like this. I've long been a fan of Z'Dar, even though he's rarely escaped Z-movie hell. He didn't have much to do here besides be a force to be reckoned with, but he brought some great screen presence. There were several good sequences, with some great kills, although most of them are finding the bodies after the fact. Some good scares towards the end with Cordell is trashing the guys at city hall...this was a lot of fun, and pretty well put together. It's an indie flick with a small budget, so I can't fault it much. Four out of five dueling chins.
Entertainment Value: With Z'Dar and Campbell on hand, I was expecting something a lot cheesier or sillier, but even though it lacked goofiness, this was still very entertaining. The only real downside is that it is a little awkward watching a cop go on a rampage and killing everyone in sight in the current state of affairs. There's a vox populi bit with citizens being interviewed on the news that was downright prescient with events happening now and current opinions. But beyond that, this was a lot of fun, way better than I expected, and while it wasn't cheesy, it was a fun maniac romp through New York, and very enjoyable. Four out of five dangling policemen.