From The Grindhouse Cinema Database
A mixture between 1980s exploitation movie and modern urban thriller, Maniac Cop stars cult movie stalwarts Bruce Campbell, Richard Roundtree and Tom Atkins. A movie moot is that the director is Jake La Motta’s nephew. For those that don’t know – Jake LaMotta is the boxer whose life is depicted in Raging Bull.
The opening sequence of this film is vaguely similar to that of the first and best Nightmare on Elm Street franchise: like Freddy, Maniac Cop is getting prepared for his work – he is putting on the finer details of his uniform. There are no knife fingers here though as Maniac Cop relies on twisted justice, a truncheon, superhuman strength and size and insider tidbits fed to him by an old girlfriend still on the force.
Like a lot of outings of the stalk and slash variety made in this era, MC is deeply flawed. The acting is wooden, the dialogue and story ludicrous – but we do not watch movies like this to be greeted with quality. It has no capacity to really scare either – but that isn’t a problem. It is still a joy – for all the reasons given above. No-one could call this film boring. Innocent people are being dispatched in the dead of night and by a police officer. One guy is drowned in concrete and has to be drilled out of hard pavement the next day. No-one trusts the men in blue anymore and the Police Chief (Roundtree) and Mayor want something done about it quick.
Of course those who are psychologically disturbed on the force or have ‘emotional problems’ should be looked at but as Roundtree points out ‘that would include the entire unit.’
The disgruntled wife of Jack (Bruce Campbell), cops it from MC, so he takes the wrap for it as he is seeing another woman on the force, Teresa (who does undercover vice and keeps her hooker clothes on throughout proceedings). The Mayor gives a public address to the citizenry that all is now well – only the murders keep happening (surprise, surprise).
Tom Atkins plays Frank – a white haired old timer who isn’t convinced Jack is the man they are after. Him and Teresa buttonhole a cripple who has worked on the force 20 years, Sally Noland as the link between the real culprit and the force. This is one of the best characters in the movie – apart from MC himself. Sally walks with a stick and has one of her legs in a calliper. She is hilarious. Frank follows her to a secret location where she meets MC (Matt Cordell – the ex-cop presumed dead), and she tells him that the killing of innocent people is wrong. ‘I thought you were only going to go after those that had hurt you’, she says to the hulk of a man whilst there is nought but silence back.
Frank investigates the history of the super cop that was Matt Cordell and he was something of a hero on the force until the city (The Mayor) made sure he went to Sing Sing for being too trigger happy. So the protagonist killer is not bad per se – but a twisted, disturbed angel.
When Sally leaves Matt/MC alone to ponder his actions, he remembers Sing Sing and there is a flashback sequence to a particularly brutal attack in the showers (where else?), leaving the poor duck battered and with deep facial scarring. MC cannot distinguish right and wrong now, but it is not his fault. It is the system that done it.
Needing vengeance of any sort Matt/MC goes to the police unit on a killing spree, dispatching his one true love (no MC NO!!!!), and throws Frank through a window. Not before Frank and Sally have a confrontation where Sally beats Frank with her stick screaming in frustration at no longer being able to help her tortured lover. Jack though is released from prison as there are no more cops there to guard him/keep him under lock and key. Teresa intrepid and lip glossed to the hilt goes with him to seek out the Chief Medical Examiner at Sing Sing who was responsible for releasing Matt’s/MC’s body to his woman all those years ago post shower incident.
After some pointed and determined interrogation from Teresa, the CME reaches for the scotch and recalls the truth. ‘He was more dead than alive – with severe brain damage.’ ‘A woman on the force persuaded me to give her his body, he would never have survived here – NEVER.’ ‘What was I supposed to do?????’ They leave him to finish his scotch only for a nurse to come in and give him a St. Patrick’s Day present. It appears to help.
The planned City Parade is still going ahead in spite of the spate of killings – or so says the news reporter to the camera filming the parade outside the municipal building which houses The Mayor. Cue inside the building and a very worried mayor is frightened that MC is out to get him. With some feasible justification one would have thought. Jack and Teresa return to the City and Jack leaves his glossy gal to go tell the powers that be the real story that they got wind of at the Examiner’s office.
Matt/MC is there already and another spree occurs culminating in Teresa escaping through the window and being followed by Matt/MC. Jack is down at the bottom of the building and gets thrown into a police van of humongous proportions (by MC) and a car chase starts with Teresa following captured boyfriend. ‘I know where he’s going – he’s going to pier 14’, Teresa informs the police officer driving the car chasing the van.’ Pier 14 is where Matt/MC simulated his own death with the aid of Sally – his own love all those years ago. Marvelous.
Breaking out Jack clings onto the side of the van (why, Jack why???), whilst Matt/MC plunges van, Jack and himself into the river, complete with supporting beam plunges into some vital vital organs. No-one trusts that he is dead (wonder why???), so the truck is raised out of the river and (surprise, surprise), no Matt/MC. Though we are given that telling glimpse of scarred hand raised out of the water to preamble the next sequence…Cue Mayor drinking scotch in his office looking pretty smug. Not for long a pair of soggy police shoes are hiding behind a curtain……and the twisted lullaby music is in the air which can only mean one thing. You can guess the rest.
Reviewed by Gail Spencer