Sometimes, not all the time, but in very rare instances, a sequel can be much better than the original. Maniac Cop 2 is one of those sequels....
In 1989, William Lustig's Maniac Cop brought us the malevolent behemoth killer cop with an unquenchable thirst for vengeance, Matt Cordell (RIP Bobby Z). It also starred two of the horror genre's biggest names, Bruce Campbell, and...AND Tom Atkins. Holy-fucking-shit! The fact that the celluloid was able to contain Bruce and Tom and NOT burst into flames from sheer awesomeness is a technological marvel.
Lucky for us, we only had to wait two years for Matt Cordell to return in the vastly superior Maniac Cop 2. The film opens exactly where Maniac Cop ended with a truncated final sequence of Laurene Landon and Bruce Campbell fighting the giant disfigured cop and ends with Cordell getting impaled by the harpoon and crashing into the river. Then, the credit sequence takes us on a tour of a junk yard full of dilapidated police cars, until one revs up and drives away with all eight cylinders growling furiously, hungry for mayhem.
Nine months after Officer Matt Cordell's reign of terror came to a watery end, he is back on the beat still looking for revenge against the filthy politicians that framed him and anyone that stands in his way. This time around, Lieutenant Sean McKinney (Robert Davi) and clinical police psychologist, Susan Riley (Claudia Christian), are the only two that can try to put an end to the Maniac Cop.
Spoiler Alert: Theresa's final sequence is much better. She and Susan Riley are on their way to a taping of "Criminals At Large" (akin to "America's Most Wanted". Younger folks: Google it) to expose the police cover-up of the Cordell murders, but on they way they are confronted by Cordell. Theresa fires six shots into his chest at point blank range and he throws her through the plate glass window of a hardware store. She gets up slowly and grabs a chainsaw from a Bob Vila (Google him) display and goes after Cordell doing her best Leatherface impression. Unfortunately for her, but extremely fortunate for us, Cordell stops the blade with one hand and snaps her neck. But hey, at least she tried...unlike Jack. (I know I'm doing a lot of Bruce bashing here, but listen, even Bruce didn't like doing these movies; they were just paychecks.)
One of the major differences between Maniac Cop and Maniac Cop 2 are the quality of the new characters. Robert Davi's Lt. Sean McKinney is 100% certified fresh badass and believable. Up until this point (when I was younger), I'd really only ever seen him in The Goonies as the bumbling, crooning buffoon, Jake Fratelli, but to see him as a foul mouthed, trench coat clad, brimmed hat wearing cop was so completely different from what I'd known, that I dug him right away. From the moment he was introduced, standing behind the smoking barrel of a .45 magnum, it was apparent that he was very shoot-first-and-ask-questions-later and he was perfectly fine about it. Mckinney's like a modern Bogart who was not into psychology at all on account of his ex-wife leaving him for her therapist.
Susan Riley starts off as a somewhat cold and by-the-books clinical psychologist. She and McKinney meet after his first appearance as it is policy that any officer that shoots a perp has to meet with her; and he has absolutely NO problem telling her what he thinks: "I feel great about what I did, alright?" and "You can take your Karl Jung and Sigmund Freud and shove em up your ass." Her logic soon goes out the door when she comes face to face with Matt Cordell.
When you get right down to it, the root of Cordell's problems were the city politicians like the Mayor and Police Commissioner Doyle. Michael Lerner did a wonderful job of portraying this slimy character, but was ultimately not irredeemable, but the damage was already done and quite irreversible for Cordell. FUN FACT (for those that don't own the original film on DVD/Blu): he is the brother of Ken Lerner, who played ill-fated Mayor Killium in the Japanese TV cut of Maniac Cop. The scenes are fun and show his sniveling descent into paranoia as Cordell rampages, inching ever closer to the top of the city's political food chain.
As if Matt Cordell was not enough, McKinney and Riley also have to contend with serial killer, Stephen Turkell, played by the great character actor, Leo Rossi. It wasn't until a short time ago that I discovered Leo Rossi also played Bud in Halloween II. In that film, Rossi seemed to play a pretty conventional, normal guy. However, Turkell was barely human under all that polyester and messy hair and blacked out teeth. He liked to frequent strip clubs then follow the strippers home and kill them and put glossy pictures up on his wall like a shrine. When he and Cordell get together, he thinks they are going to break criminals out of jail to make an army, but Cordell has VERY different plans. FUN FACT II: in the deleted scenes Maniac Cop: Who was Mayor Killium's right hand man? Leo-Freakin-Rossi.
Finally, there is the dearly departed Robert Z'Dar as the titular Maniac Cop. You gotta love a character that just has to show up and be big and menacing. Maniac Cop 2 is also the first of two times we hear Cordell speak. Turkell asks what his name is and he forces out, "Cordell." Throughout the entire trilogy, he utters a total of three words, and in Maniac Cop 3: Badge of Silence, he says "Finish it." (Side note: Badge of Silence does not make my list of sequels better than the original because it was just flat-out shit.)
Speaking of stunts and action, Maniac Cop 2 was chock-full of 'em. The first one, technically, was that crook falling from a high window, bouncing off a car, then onto the ground before McKinney shoots him. Then there was the awesome sequence of Riley being handcuffed through the window of a parked car, then Cordell throws it into neutral, rolls it down a hill and deals with Theresa. The stunt was elaborate as some angles were of the stunt person literally hanging onto the door with their feet lifted up jut off of the road as the car careened and swerved to miss oncoming traffic. It ends with Susan getting inside and the car eventually flipping; It's a very masterfully edited sequence.
Another big stunt was at the end of the film where Cordell breaks into Sing-Sing prison and hit with a Molotov cocktail by one of the three inmates that killed him. He spends the entire final few minutes of the film engulfed in flames as he finishes his revenge tour, which is a pretty impressive feat for any stunt-person, then crashes through a "brick" wall.
Finally, THE scene of the film: Cordell's rampage through the police station, which starts off on the firing range. The camera trucks down the line of cops firing at paper targets, and then one by one, they are all shot in the head, and the massive Cordell with his ghostly-grey face emerges from out of the darkness in between the paper targets. The scene is so unsettling because, he literally materializes from nothingness. Then he grabs an automatic gun of some kind (I don't know gun types), kills two more cops walking up the stairs, then opens the door to Heaven: the main room of the police station.
This is something he's been dreaming of: all the cops in a shooting gallery. He opens fire on everyone he can see, and like the force of nature that he is, as he walks, the glass windows and wooden barriers in his way completely shatter. Then he gets to the Chief: Cordell picks him up and throws him the length of the room and he crashes through all the wooden beams that hold up the police cubicles. This scene was the outlandish zazz that Maniac Cop was lacking.
I still like Maniac Cop; it's a fine film, but if you haven't seen Maniac Cop 2, I highly suggest you do. It's without a doubt the strongest film in the franchise with the highest quality and best story. I've loved it since I was a kid. If you have seen the film, you may be inclined to agree with me that Maniac Cop 2 is VASTLY superior to its predecessor. If you don't...well, that's your problem.
And now, the Maniac Cop 2 Rap (You're welcooooome):