Format: Streaming video from Hulu+ on various players.
Robert Z’Dar has a lot of face. I don’t state this as a problem, but merely a fact to be taken in. Seriously—go Google the man’s name and look at the images page. It’s like someone made a face out of clay and then stretched it in all dimensions before kilning it. He looks sort of like Eric Stoltz in Mask after Clearasil and his IMDB trademark is, in part, “enormous face.” I say this only because when you have a face roughly the size of a frozen turkey, you don’t tend to end up with the girl at the end of the film. You end up with a career in B-movies, and often as the monster. So it’s no surprise that with the film Maniac Cop 2, Robert Z’Dar is the title villain.
The film picks up where the first film left off, presumably; I haven’t seen the first film, so I don’t know much about its plot or what happens in it. But we see what looks like the closing scenes of the first film here. It ends with our maniac cop, Matt Cordell (Z’Dar) being forced off a pier in a burning car by two other cops, presumably drowning. I can’t be sure, but what I gather from this film is that Cordell was once a good cop who was set up to take a fall for his superiors, then killed in prison, then came back as a sort of revenant who started killing indiscriminately to take revenge on the men who framed him.
Anyway, our two cops are sent to get some psychological counselling. Jack Forrest (Bruce Campbell) assumes that everything is done and wants to move on with his life and career. His partner, Teresa Mallory (Laurene Landon) is convinced that the killer in the first film was actually the revenant of Cordell, and of course she is right. It’s all moot for Forrest, because 20 minutes in, Cordell shows up and kills him, and that’s just not right to do to Bruce Campbell.
Eventually, badass detective Sean McKinney (B-movie legend Robert Davi) gets involved in the case, as does police psychologist Susan Riley (Claudia Christian, who has evidently been on about half of all television shows ever). Susan accompanies Teresa to a television show where Teresa plans to tell everybody about the returned corpse of Cordell, but Cordell shows up during the cab ride and kills Teresa, meaning that for the second half of the movie, we’re following new people who weren’t a major part of the first film (I think) and that both of our protagonists from the first film are dead.
And then Maniac Cop 2 takes a strange left turn, and suddenly we’re investigating a serial killer who has been targeting strippers. This killer, named Turkell (Leo Rossi), targets a new stripper and is interrupted by Cordell in the middle of his rape and murder. The stripper (Paula Trickey) survives the attack in part because of this interruption, and both Turkell and Cordell become something like friends. This somehow leads to the two criminals breaking into Sing-Sing so that Cordell can get revenge on the men who killed him while he was a prisoner.
It’s kind of too bad, because the first part of the film is actually strong enough that we really don’t need the stripper killer subplot. For a low-budget film, there are some great action set pieces here. The chase with the taxi is pretty good, and it’s followed by Cordell handcuffing our cop psychologist to the steering wheel through the window and setting the car off at high speed. It’s an incredibly inventive scene and is absolutely a highpoint of the film.
A bigger surprise is the cast. In addition to those mentioned above, both Michael Lerner and that-guy legend Charles Napier make appearances here, as does Clarence Williams III, and all three are a lot of fun to watch here.
The biggest issues here are both plot and the ending. I won’t got into detail with the end, but I will say this. To actually buy into the climactic scene, you have to make a number of weird assumptions. First, a number of people in this final confrontation would need to be doused in lighter fluid for the film to play out as it does. Second, you have to be willing to believe that a particular wall in the prison looks like cinderblocks but is actually bricks of cheese or some other semi-soft material. Third, you need to accept that a burning dude falling out of a gaping hole in a prison wall and landing on a bus will cause that bus to explode.
This is hardly a great film and I’m a little miffed that Bruce Campbell is bumped off too quickly, but it’s really better than the goofy premise. This is particularly true of the first 40 minute, where the film stays on the strange rails it has created. The second half is a letdown in part, but still worth seeing for B-movie fans.
Why to watch Maniac Cop 2: It’s better than its premise and much of its genre.
Why not to watch: It’s kinda goofy and not at all scary.