Maniac Cop 2

2 out of 5

Directed by: William Lustig

While again boasting some really wild and impressive stunts – another all-timer car chase – and given an occasionally surprisingly artsy polish by director William Lustig, Maniac Cop’s sequel too often feels like it’s in search of a purpose, on all levels: trying to justify how it continues its story; its titular character’s motivations; or the reason for any other character to really be involved. Whenever it strikes on a direction, the movie hangs back, unsure how to continue, and then it lurches – along with the Cop himself – in a different direction. Lovable Larry Cohen bits are splashed throughout, and recognizable faces dot the cast, the whole project just never quite gels into the type of quality B-movie the original achieved, or succeeds as consistent action / horror distraction.

MC2 picks up pretty much right after the first one, including footage from its ending, and puts zombo copper Matt Cordell back on the streets for more slashings. Confusingly, though, cops – his targets due to his being framed and jailed prior to his death and resurrection – seem like afterthoughts amongst his victim pool here, with his focus instead on moderately innocent bystanders. Furthermore, he often lets clear villains – robbers, rapists – go, even befriending one such baddie (Leo Rossi) after interrupting him midst-murder. This could switch from confusing to intriguing if it was given some more subtext in the movie, but when the cop who’s hunting him down this time – a muted Robert Davi – mentions that Cordell “has a reason for everything he does,” it had me waiting for some explanation of his behaviors that never arrived. It seemed more that Cohen needed a setup for his endgame – Cordell taking revenge on others involved in his, er, first death – and tried to work backwards, necessitating the weird, ping-pongy flow of the Maniac Cop’s actions to get there.

Structurally, there’s some cool stuff here, bringing back in Bruce Campbell’s and Laurene Landon’s characters pretty fully, before transitioning to Davi and his female counterpart, Claudia Christian, and the aforementioned arthouse vibe is strong – the weirdly crawling title sequence; some fantastic lighting elements; and a kind of noir approach that informs how Davi is shot throughout.

It just doesn’t blend together all that well with whatever the driving force of the story is meant to be, the insane stunts (and a wildly extended fire gag bit!) perking up an otherwise lightweight slasher, in which our villain has been demoted from unstoppable killer to a more bumbling variation of that, crashing through walls when the door would’ve suited just fine.