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Innocent people are being brutally murdered on the streets of New York City by a uniformed police officer. As the death toll rises and City Hall attempts a cover-up, Frank McCrae heads the investigation. A young cop, Jack Forrest, finds himself under arrest as the chief suspect, having been the victim of a set-up by the real killer and a mysterious woman phone-caller. Forrest, his girlfriend Theresa, and McCrae set out to solve the puzzle before the Maniac Cop can strike again. Written by
In New York someone is committing brutal murders on unexpected and innocent victims, but to make matters worst for the police force, witnesses claimed it was a cop doing the horrific acts. Now terror fills the people of New York of anyone in a blue uniform. Not too long officer Jack Forrest (Bruce Campbell) gets accused of these murders, but Cordell a supposedly dead cop who was wrongfully jailed by the higher authorities of the city frames Forrest, so he could get closer to those screwed him. Lt. McCrae (Peter Atkins) who is in charge of the case doesn't believe that the accused officer is apart of it and he goes out of his way to prove that a demented policeman is the one they should be after.
Damn! I wished I watched them in order, as certainly this is by far the best of the three. It's just I couldn't get my hands on it, until after seeing the two sequels and they were just there. But that's always the case when you do something like that. Oh well, I did leave the best for last, which I guess leaves me with more than a satisfied feeling towards the trilogy after the somewhat fair, but disappointing number three.
'Maniac Cop' isn't going to win any awards nor is it not trying to. What we have by Director William Lustig and writer Larry Cohen is nothing but good trashy b-grade action-horror hokum and it achieves it in a rather sprightly manner. Watching this you'll be thinking your trash heaven! It borders on ridiculous, but hey that makes it even more enjoyable and you could say its one of the better horror flicks that filled the late 80's. It has the slasher touch to it, but with a twist with a killer being someone who we think will protect us. Larry Cohan's screenplay makes great use of this premise, by executing ideas about the hysteria it would cause when playing on society fears of political correctness and people abusing their authority figure and power. These sort of social commentaries you just come to like and grow use to when watching a film that has him credited as writer. Other than the satire part, Cohan adds to the mystery of Cordell in a very compelling structure by providing enough mayhem and more than enough surprises along the way. That's not to say it doesn't have its plot holes and some things just come together a bit to easy, but again it knows its limitations by playing it for fun than going for a serious outlook were every little thing is wrapped up in nice little bow. For me it was more original than most in its field.
The vividly seedy New York backdrop was a superb fitting with its scummy macabre that fills every crevice during the night sequences, but still enough through daylight that you are pulled into panic and uneasy vibe that fills the city. A chilling aurora is felt with rustling sounds that added even more to the grinding tension and increasing dread. Something that the two sequels just couldn't replicate, well not in the same vein. The time pretty much passes by like a breeze, as it's relentlessly at a high-octane pace. That's all because of William Lustig no bars approach to the direction, by adding a pinch of all types of ingredients. Like the usual high speed car chase, interesting interactions between the characters, explosive shootout, exploitative violence that has a tad of gore and the basic flashback on the bad guy and how he become this monster. You'll be on the edge for last 15 minutes.
Although, the performances also make it one hell of a ride with the likes of some favourite powerhouse b-films stars that just have a knack of making any sort of character interesting. You have probably guess who I'm going to praise and I see from other reviewers I'm hardly alone on this one, but Bruce Campbell and Peter Atkins can make anything incredibly lively when they are involved. Both get their fair share of screen time and make the most of it and it's the first time that I've seen Campbell in a tone down role and he still nails it. But again the characters get their witty lines curtsy to Cohen's profound script. Laurene Landon also is quite good as Forrest's mistress and cop buddy. She adds another feisty element to the picture. Also in the support you got the likes of Richard Roundtree as Commissioner Pike and William Smith as Capt. Ripley. Robert Z'Dar plays the hidden figure Matt Cordell that has some supernatural vibe with brute and energy, but even with some passion too. The actual makeup for Cordell's scarred face wasn't too bad either.
Overall, this low-budget feature is immensely messy fun with an above-average script and remarkably agreeable performances by all involved. Definitely check out the sequels if you enjoy this flick as they kind of follow the same path, but also adding their own distinguishable trait to the central idea.
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