3 out of 5
Directed by: William Lustig / Alan Smithee
Taking place both directly after Maniac Cop 2 and perhaps at some unspecified point thereafter – maybe due to the after-the-fact distributor-mandated changes requiring writer director William Lustig to shoot scenes on the fly – Maniac Cop 3: Badge of Silence mostly drops any horror pretense and instead puts zombie cop at the center of more of an action / mystery thriller, killer officer Matt Cordero resurrected by voodoo rites for some unknown reason. Robert Davi returns as Sean McKinney (though his presence was part of those mandated changes), protective of tuff cop Kate (Gretchen Becker), who’s come under fire lately for being a bit too aggressive while on duty, and earning the nickname “Maniac Kate.”
Kate answers a call to a robbery (being enacted by an entertainingly batty Jackie Earle Haley), and is caught on camera shooting both the baddie, but also a hostage, taking a brain-damaging bullet in the process as well. Footage which edits out the relative innocence of her actions makes it to the press, and she’s vilified while in a coma, whilst the bad guy – surviving, recovering in hospital – starts to get media deals.
Despite the tonal changes and the film having a much more standard, barebones look than the prior entries, MC3 has a lot of fun Larry Cohen color throughout its script, with some on-the-nose but entertaining commentary barbs aimed at the police, the public, and the media. And Lustig, to his credit, adjusts the style to something that best fits: it’s handled with mostly a straight face, and he still manages some great shots and finds some solid locations throughout, keeping the whole thing moving. Discovering the logic behind Cordero’s actions – who becomes more of an avenging angel type – is actually pretty engaging, over the wandering, muddled nature of MC2; …although said logic maybe becomes equally muddled towards the ending, that’s okay, because we’re already caught up in the climax. This section itself tries to match the car stunts of the other flicks and doesn’t – it goes on for too long on its one gag – but it’s definitely a cool image.
Watching Maniac Cop 3’s over-zealous cop themes in the 2020s is interesting in and of itself; Cohen has some lines throughout that don’t quite make it clear what side of the fence the film falls on – glorification or criticism – but that also makes it a bit more flavorful than your standard DTV affair, elevated further by consistent handling of the material by Lustig and his cast and crew. And the movie’s final stinger shot is the best of the trilogy.