There's no prelude or onslaught of corporate logos or narration or whatever. Nope, Maniac Cop 2 immediately picks up where the first flick left off, rewinding the clock just enough so you can
see Bruce Campbell get thrashed around by a towering psychopath in a police uniform and to get one more look at that paddy wagon careening into the river. Jack (Bruce Campbell) and Theresa (Laurene Landon) tell the higher-ups in the NYPD all the grisly details afterwards, but everyone thinks the two of 'em have lost it. I mean, they say Matt Cordell (Robert Z'Dar) is behind all those brutal murders?! That disgraced cop was stabbed to death in a shower in Sing Sing a while back. The commissioner (Michael Lerner) rolls his eyes. The police psychologist (Claudia Christian) doesn't know what to make of it. Those reports keep flooding in about a six-foot-three cop with a face scarred to hell and back, though, and the piles of dead bodies keep growing higher and higher. Cordell up to this point has been a singular, undead force of vengeance against the corrupt politicians that tried to put him in the grave. When he teams up with a serial killer (Leo Rossi) with who knows how many dead strippers under his belt, Cordell aims to go from being a one-man-army to something a whole hell of a lot more unstoppable.
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Maniac Cop 2 delivers everything I could ever have wanted in a genre flick and then some. For one, this is a lean, efficient, and brutal movie. There's barely any exposition to get in the way, and Maniac Cop 2 doesn't really slow down between action sequences to catch its breath. Anyone can die at any time. So many slashers settle into the sort of rhythm where you can set your watch to when the next kill will roll around, and you can pretty safely bet who the next victim is gonna be, but Maniac Cop 2 chucks that rulebook out the driver's side window. Pretty much all of Cordell's murders caught me off-guard in one way or another, and these kills are executed in really clever, inspired, and unexpected ways. The size and scale of the action is staggering too. Cordell mounts two sieges against the heavily fortified symbols of the men that wronged him. There are multiple breakneck car chases, one of which I'd rank high on my list of all-time favorites, and that's before Claudia Christian's psychologist is handcuffed to the steering wheel of an unmanned sedan screaming downhill too. The body count is stratospheric. Some of the brutality, like the bursts of blood that go flying when a firing range starts firing back, made even this seasoned gorehound's jaw drop. If the Academy recognized stuntwork the way they should, Maniac Cop 2 would've taken home an armful of statuettes. The stunts here are extensive, elaborate,
and unlike anything I've ever seen. There's an unmistakeable sense of danger with the scale of the stuntwork here that you just can't replicate in an era of CGI. I don't think I've ever watched a movie where a stuntman was fully engulfed in flames for this long, impressing the hell out of me even before two men on fire were flung down seven stories and crashed through the bus below.
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This sequel couldn't be more perfectly cast either. Cult cinema icons Bruce Campbell and Robert Z'Dar return with Laurene Landon from the original Maniac Cop. Claudia Christian puts in a solid performance as a police psychologist forced to dust off her service revolver again, and Robert Davi also joins in as a detective investigating a parade of murdered strippers. As familiar a face as Leo Rossi's
is, he's almost unrecognizable under that big, bushy beard as the serial killer that Detective McKinney is hunting down. Rossi is a cackling, maniacal blast, and who can't love the bromance he dreams that he's struck with an undead cop? Maniac Cop 2 benefits further from an outstanding supporting cast, featuring turns by Michael Lerner, Clarence Williams III, Charles Napier, Robert Earl Jones, and even a brief appearance by Danny Trejo.
Maniac Cop 2 is just a hell of a lot of fun. Larry Cohen's razor-sharp screenplay is constantly pulling the rug out from under the audience, dramatically upending things just when you think you've figured out what direction this sequel is headed. I mean that in an earned, legitimately surprising way too. The onslaught of action makes for a relentless adrenaline rush, and the stuntwork, the cast...everything is firing on all cylinders. If you're waiting for the part of the review where I start tearing into the stuff I didn't like, then I guess I should tell you now that there isn't gonna be one. There aren't any "but..."s, "except..."s, or snarky jabs this time around. Director Bill Lustig and screenwriter Larry Cohen set out to make the perfect B-movie with Maniac Cop 2, and that's exactly what they've done. Highly Recommended.
Blue Underground took a breather from Blu-ray for a while there, but they're back. They're fit, they're rested, and now they're gonna show you what a definitive release looks like.
Maniac Cop 2 never got the DVD it deserved, with First Look's release recycling the same full-frame, standard definition master that was struck all the way back in 1990 or 1991. Now that director Bill Lustig has gotten his hands on the film through his own label, he's making up for lost time.
Maniac Cop 2 was mastered at 4K from the original camera negative, something that's pretty much unheard of for a cult cinema release. Hell, not even the likes of Star Wars can say that. Blue Underground spared no expense for this release of Maniac Cop 2, and it shows. That 4K oversampling unleashes an astonishing amount of clarity and fine detail. Lustig talks about about one of the producers who kept harping during filming about the movie being too dark for home video, but the director is right to groan; that's not even a little bit of a concern here. Its colors are flawlessly rendered, contrast is dead-on, and the image holds up perfectly under low light. The filmic texture is extremely tight and generally unintrusive, making for some of the most gorgeous looking film grain I've come across on Blu-ray. The skillful AVC encoding is more than up to the challenge of reproducing that grain accurately too. I couldn't spot any digital sputters or stutters anywhere throughout Maniac Cop 2, and the image is similarly free of any
nicks, flecks of dust, or any other sign of age or wear. The shorter answer is that this Blu-ray disc is perfect. If there were something better than perfect, I'd be saying that instead. I had high expectations for this presentation of Maniac Cop 2, but the end result here eclipses anything I could ever have hoped to see. Absolutely extraordinary work.
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Maniac Cop 2 arrives on a dual layer Blu-ray disc at the film's original aspect ratio of 1.85:1.
I'm similarly in awe of Maniac Cop 2's 24-bit DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack, presented here in 7.1. I'm admittedly a couple speakers shy of being able to take full advantage, but even in 5.1, I'm completely blown away. The distinctness and clarity of every last element in the mix is deeply impressive, and every bit of it is perfectly balanced. The multichannel remix is world-class, seizing hold of every available speaker. There's a really strong sense of separation across channels, a slew of smooth pans and discrete effects drop me right in the middle of the action, and the low-end is every bit as punchy and throaty as Maniac Cop 2 demands. There's nothing for me to grouse or groan about here either, again trumping my highest expectations.
Maniac Cop 2 also includes two lossy soundtracks: a Dolby stereo surround track (256kbps) and a Dolby Digital 5.1-EX remix (640kbps). There are a couple of other audio options as well, but I'll get into those a little later. This Blu-ray disc also offers a sprawling selection of eighteen different subtitle streams. No matter what side of the planet you're on or what language you happen to speak, I can pretty much guarantee that you're covered. There's even support for D-Box bass shaker rigs.
- Back on the Beat: The Making of Maniac Cop 2 (47 min.; HD): Heading up the extras on Maniac Cop 2 is this lengthy retrospective with director Bill Lustig, writer Larry Cohen, stunt director Spiro Razatos, composer Jay Chattaway, special makeup effects artist Dean Gates, and actors Robert Davi, Claudia Christian, Michael Lerner, Leo Rossi, and Robert Z'Dar. There's a metric ton of great stuff in here, such as how one attack wasn't meant to be fatal so it could be a plot point in Maniac Cop III, how the concept for the original movie was dreamed up off-the-cuff over lunch, the zombie makeup pushing Z'Dar just about past the brink of madness, and the heavy Hong Kong influence to many of the action sequences. It's infused with a hell of a lot of energy and excitement, and I appreciate the honesty, even when it's clear that Claudia Christian and Bill Lustig don't think all that much of each other. Like all of the extras on this Blu-ray disc, "Back on the Beat" is well worth setting aside the time to watch.
- Cinefamily Q&A (29 min.; HD): This lengthy post-screening Q&A with Bill Lustig was shot while he was still trying to untangle the rights to Maniac Cop 2. There's some unavoidable overlap with "Back on the Beat", but some of those stories are explored in greater depth here, such as how he and Larry Cohen first got together. Lustig also chats about shooting footage for the original Maniac Cop before a script had ever been written, why Cohen shouldn't really have scored a producing credit on this sequel, and some of the noteworthy names that pitched in during the film's very tight post-production schedule.
- Audio Commentary: Bill Lustig is joined by his friend and fellow
filmmaker Nicolas Winding Refn on Maniac Cop 2's commentary track. It's a different sort of commentary because it's two directors having a conversation rather than sounding as if they're directly addressing the audience. I'm a sucker for these sorts of tracks, especially the emphasis on the technical and business sides of filmmaking: logistics with the size of the crew changing, interweaving footage shot on opposite sides of the country, a preference for finding visual inspiration on the set, and quite a lot about financing and distribution. I don't want to make it sound dry or impenetrably technical, though, 'cause that's not at all the case. They also talk about the tragic lack of Yoo-hoo in California in those dark days, how the stunts in Maniac Cop 2 might've looked a whole lot different if not for Beaches, and which Italian restaurant gets Lustig's nod as the worst in New York.
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- Isolated Score: Jay Chattaway's score gets a stereo soundtrack of its very own, offered here in 24-bit DTS-HD Master Audio
- Deleted Scene (2 min.; SD): Sam Raimi scores a bit part as a local news anchor, fielding a segment interviewing people on the street about the maniac cop's reign of terror.
- Photo and Still Gallery: There are a couple hundred images across all these galleries, including poster art, advertising materials, lobby cards, behind the scenes photos, and, most extensively, B&W and color stills.
- Trailers (6 min.; HD): Last up are four theatrical trailers. Since Maniac Cop 2 went direct-to-video on these shores, that means the U.S. isn't represented. You do get a British teaser, an international trailer, one in French, and another in German.
- Easter Egg (3 min.; SD): Oh, and there's a two and a half minute Easter egg if you click around the Extras menu as well.
Maniac Cop 2 comes packaged in an embossed slipcover, and this combo pack has an anamorphic widescreen DVD riding shotgun as well.
The Final Word
With millions of dollars to play with and all the creative freedom they could hope for, Bill Lustig and Larry Cohen set out to make Maniac Cop 2 the ultimate B-movie. That's precisely what it is, too: an 87 minute whirlwind of blood-spattered action and jaw-dropping stuntwork. This is a movie I love enough to recommend no matter how the rest of the package had turned out, but a breathtakingly gorgeous presentation and a strong slate of extras make Maniac Cop 2 that much more of an essential purchase for anyone with a taste for cult cinema. Very, very Highly Recommended.