12 May 2016 | breakdownthatfilm-blogspot-com
It's watchable but is less engaging
Slasher / horror films throughout the 1980s were a big thing in its time. Many popular icons arose from that decade of which many still resonate with fans today. Several moviegoers remember the mainstream villains but there are also groups of people that remember the lesser known ones too. Of those, William Lustig's Maniac Cop (1988) was one of them. Although the concept itself borrowed ideas from past films like Halloween (1978), the idea of having a killer cop on the streets causing hysteria among the citizens of the local police force was rather inventive. The premise of corrupt cops has long been used before in movies, but an undead cop was another story. The other component that made it captivating to watch was that it played out like a mystery thriller. The maniac cop wasn't actually figured out until much later in the movie, which helped build tension to the reveal. And like any other successful movie opening, a franchise was created. Let's see how it holds up.
Larry Cohen (the writer from the original) pens the continuation of the story. William Lustig also returns in the director's chair, yet there are noticeable problems, this time a little more than the first. As it was revealed at the ending of the first movie, Matt Cordell, the maniac cop (Robert Z'Dar) is alive and returns to exact his mission. The only people who still believe he's around are the cop from past events Jack Forrest (Bruce Campbell) and Teresa Mallory (Laurene Landon). Unconvinced of what they say, their captain, Edward Doyle (Michael Lerner) sends them to cop psychiatrist Susan Riley (Claudia Christian). Instead, Forrest and Mallory work to persuade Riley that Cordell exists. The only other person to think their actually telling the truth once he starts to see the puzzle pieces align is Detective Sean McKinney (Robert Davi). This is fine for a premise, but as soon as this is set up Lustig and Cohen add extra unnecessary elements.
Cohen and Lustig's biggest mistake was mixing in an assistant to the maniac cop. Leo Rossi plays a serial killer named Turkell and he ends up teaming up with Cordell; to a point where he can communicate with him (via one-sided conversation). This would have been much more entertaining if Rossi wasn't so over the top in his performance. There's actually more focus put on Turkell than Cordell at certain points. This movie is called Maniac Cop 2 (1990) right? Also at one point, Turkell asks Cordell about his past and viewers are given the exact same flashback from the original Maniac Cop (1988) film. Even another jail mate named Blum (Clarence Williams III) joins Turkell and Cordell, but has very little significance. This is all just padding, it's not story telling. Lastly, there's a rushed subplot about some inside conspiracy dealing with Cordell and his death. The problem is that it comes from nowhere so abruptly; it's confusing as to why Cohen didn't mention it in the original movie script.
Among these problems, everything else is commendable. The cast can all act well together. Bruce Campbell and Laurene Landon are still believable in their roles, Robert Davi and Claudia Christian make nice additions and there are a number of other actors that have small roles. Charles Napier, Danny Trejo, Marco Rodriguez and even Sam Raimi make quick appearances and it's enjoyable to see that. Robert Z'Dar as the title character continues to intimidate with his stature and presence. It's still confusing as to why nobody ever thinks of shooting Cordell in the face though. Everyone aims for the abdomen; not the face, why? For violence, nothing is seriously gore heavy but there are still some good kills. There's even a scene with a chain saw that may catch people off guard due to what's expected. One thing's for sure, the maniac cop loves snapping necks. Cordell's face is much more hideous this time too. There was only one scene though where it looked like a cheap mask.
For cinematography, James Lemmo handled the camera-work. Lemmo was also the cinematographer to director Abel Ferrara's Ms. 45 (1981), Fear City (1984) and also to the original Maniac Cop (1988). Like the first movie however, there are very few (if any) daylight scenes. It's fine to show night time, but it gets a bit difficult to see things when everything is shrouded in the dark city. Nonetheless the camera is always steady and gets what it needs to show. Jay Chattaway returns as well to compose the film score. Much like his previous effort in the franchise, Chattaway thankfully maintains the main theme of the series with synth keyboard and drawn out ominous horns. There are added themes though, which may not have been crucial to include. This involves a church-like choir in the background for some tracks. Yeah, there's always that idea that putting in holy or childlike songs in a minor key sounds creepy but it makes the film feel like it was supposed to have a religious tone. Not sure.
Casting, music and violence all make this sequel watchable. It is disappointing however when majority of the original crew members return and shift the focus from the title character to some other forgettable over the top one. There's also a rushed subplot about Cordell's case and it gets wedged in way too quickly. Still decent though.