Last we saw Officer Matthew Cordell, his right hand reached out from beneath the pier after he'd been impaled and plunged a police van into the Hudson River. Or at least, I think it was the Hudson. It's never made entirely clear in 'Maniac Cop' where exactly the finale took place, except that it was a warehouse by the river. It could the Port of Long Beach or some other random place in Los Angeles, for all we know. Actually, it's a funny thing about the first movie in the franchise. The plot is set in New York City, but the filmmakers conspicuously shoot a good amount of footage in L.A., like Bruce Campbell and Laurene Landon's hotel rendezvous and the street chase with the police van. It's a good laugh seeing certain parts of L.A. trying to play it off as if it were NYC. So, for the finale, who knows.
Anyhow, for all intents and purposes, let us say Cordell crashed somewhere into the Harbor area where he supposedly meets his maker. (And don't worry, it's not exactly a spoiler since there is lots more going in the last ten minutes.) And in the case of Robert Z'Dar, who plays the furious, hulking, uniformed mass on a vengeance-obsessed murdering spree the public nicknamed "Maniac Cop," that maker is some Greek god perfectly chiseled of marble. However, in this sequel to the 1988 cult favorite, Z'Dar isn't given the opportunity to display his uniquely striking facial features. Apparently, the river has done serious decomposition damage to Cordell, making him look a bit zombified, which again makes me think he took a dip into the Hudson. Or maybe it's the East River where Cosmo Kramer also took a swim that I'm thinking of.
Whatever the case may be, Cordell is now a horribly disfigured monster going into this follow-up, turning the series from a mystery-type actioner to a more straightforward horror-action thriller. He's also more irked and determined than ever to avenge his name, ruin the reputation of New York's finest, and hunt down those responsible for sending him to Sing Sing. But first, Cordell — and for the sake of the storyline — must tie up a couple loose ends from the first movie. Funnily, much like Tom Atkins's character, officers Jack Forrest (Campbell) and Theresa Mallory (Landon) serve as our MacGuffins in the vein of Janet Leigh. The first act follows the pair as they readjust to normal life after the events of the previous film. Forced to see a psychologist, Jack tries to fall in line while Theresa vehemently wants to warn the public about Cordell, but eventually, the two are met with violent deaths at the hands of the Maniac Cop.
If Campbell's performance in the first movie is largely unmemorable, then he's all the more forgettable in the sequel, once again playing the character plain and dull. Landon's Theresa, on the other hand, has toughen up a bit although the plot has her once more acting the sidekick to a grumbling, surly, hardened detective, one of the few who believe her. Atkins is sorely missed — not so much Campbell, sadly — but Robert Davi is fantastic in the role of Det. Lt. Sean McKinney, who like McCrae uncovers the truth and is determined to bring an end to the insanity. Taking over for Theresa to partner with McKinney is police psychologist Susan Riley (Claudia Christian doing great opposite Davi). She becomes a believer after being handcuffed to the steering wheel of a runaway car, one the film's finest and most electrifying moments.
Complicating matters is a subplot involving serial killer Steve Turkell, played by an utterly awesome and grotesquely whimsical Leo Rossi ('Halloween II'). By a weird coincidence that's never fully explained — but frankly, doesn't matter either — he befriends the brutish Cordell so that the plot has the two ultimately break into prison and wreak greater chaos. Not only does this lead to more entertaining action sequences but also amazingly adds to the movie's overall enjoyment. Director William Lustig and producer/writer Larry Cohen return for this follow-up and deliver a motion picture rarity. 'Maniac Cop 2' is as good, and possibly better, as its predecessor, with heightened action and suspense, making it one of the more fun and pleasurable B-exploitation actioners of the late 80s.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Blue Underground brings 'Maniac Cop 2' to Blu-ray as a two-disc Collector's Edition combo pack. The Region Free, BD50 disc sits comfortably opposite a DVD-9 copy inside a regular blue case with a lightly embossed slipcover. At startup, viewers are taken directly to an animated menu screen with full-motion clips and music.
'Maniac Cop 2' takes aim at Blu-ray and hits its target with flying colors, or at least, as best as could be expected from a low-budget production such as this. Like Matthew Cordell, the 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 encode isn't much of a looker, but the source used has aged quite well and appears to be in excellent condition. The high-def transfer offers a fairly strong amount of visible detail and clarity. Facial complexions are healthy and revealing, exposing pores and negligible blemishes in the faces of actors. Although the picture leans a bit towards the dark and gloomy, contrast levels are nevertheless nicely balanced with clean whites throughout. Colors are boldly rendered and well-saturated while blacks are deep and true with dark, penetrating shadows that don't ruin delineation. With a consistently thin layer of natural grain, the video looks great.
Sadly, the audio is not quite as pleasing as I would have hoped. I commend Blue Underground for giving fans a trio of choices, along with an isolated score in DTS-HD, but I really would have loved a lossless option of the original stereo design. Instead, the only high-rez option is a 7.1 upmix that basically feels as if someone turned up the volume and did little else.
All four surrounds are grossly exaggerated and distracting, noticeably coming in at a higher decibel than the three front channels, which can at times feel overwhelming. The musical score is pretty loud in the rears, leaving a gaping emptiness in the soundstage, and atmospherics are gaudily employed, easily localized and lack discreteness as they attempt to expand the soundfield. Thankfully, the mid-range remains intact with some appreciable clarity, except for a few action sequences where the higher frequencies can seem too bright and vulgar. The low-end is also bit more brash and loud than expected, delivering some odd booming effects that are largely inappropriate. Yet, dialogue reproduction is cleanly and plainly delivered in the center, never drowned by the rest of the track.
The other two choices are another upmix in 5.1 Dolby Digital EX and a 2.0 stereo surround that's closer to the film's original design. The former exhibits many of the same problems as the 7.1 track while the latter sounds and feels more appropriate. In the end, it's just disappointing we don't have a lossless stereo option.
Picking up after the events of the first movie, 'Maniac Cop 2' is a surprisingly entertaining horror actioner that's equally as good as, if not better than, its predecessor. Director William Lustig and producer/writer Larry Cohen return for a sequel that exceeds budget limitations, delivers an engaging plot, and manages to build some amusing suspense. The Blu-ray from Blue Underground comes with a shockingly good remaster of the original elements but an audio presentation that isn't wholly satisfying. With a decent collection of supplements, the overall package is sure to please fans while the curious will be content with a rental.