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November 8, 2013

Movie Review: Maniac Cop 2 (1990, Blu-ray/DVD Combo)

Review By: Rob Sibley

 Finally after years upon years of waiting and watching shoddy full screen DVD transfers of this action/horror classic (Yes I said class). Blue Underground releases the film onto Blu-ray for the first time and even better this is the first time this fine film has received a release in it's proper 1.85:1 Widescreen aspect ratio.

Not only that but Blue Underground has gone the extra mile with the bonus features. This was easily the most anticipated release of the year for me and Blue Underground did this film proud. Not surprising since as we all know the director Bill Lustig runs BU.

Maniac Cop has always been a favorite film of mine. It's a near perfect film for what it is. It's filled to the brim with that great sleazy NYC atmosphere of the 80's that Lustig captured perfectly in his earlier films. It features a strong performance from Robert Davi and Robert Z'Dar aka the Maniac Cop perfectly embodies the role of this undead & unstoppable Terminator/Zombie like cop out for vengeance.

A quick recap of the first film for those who are a bit behind. Officer Matt Cordell (Robert Z'Dar) was a class act cop, a bit trigger happy, a bit Dirty Harry. But he was an honest, hard working fella. Well long story short, Cordell got set up and was wrongly sent to prison. While in the showers he was presumably stabbed to death... but he didn't die.

Now the first film was a bit of stretch... it had an absurd concept but played the film 100% straight. Bruce Campbell was the lead & Laurene Landon was his cop buddy. They set out to unravel the mystery of Cordell. Now Cordell in the first film was supposedly still "alive" and "human" yet bullets didn't do a thing to him. He was pretty much like Jason Vorhees in Friday parts 3-4. This time around though he's in full on Zombie mode much like Jason in Friday part 6. He even looks very similar, if Jason ditched the hockey mask and threw on a badge you'd be hard pressed to tell them apart.

Now the first film is recapped in the opening of this sequel. It ended with a high speed chase, the Maniac cop was impaled while driving an armored van and it flew off a pier and sank into the murkey waters of NYC. The film picks up right after were the first film ends with the truck being pulled out of the water and shocker... no Maniac Cop.

He's alive (?) and well and looking to dish out some payment on the cops who sent him away... fuck that... he's out to take out all the cops in NYC. Bruce Campbell returns for a bit in this sequel but he's not the star. Leading man duties go to the ever so talented character actor Robert Davi as Detective. Sean McKinney. Davi playing Irish? Sure why not. He's your classic shoot first and ask questions later kind of cop. He chainsmokes, he takes no shit and he wears a badass hat and trench coat. He's the perfect Noir-cop throwback.

The true scene stealer in this gem of a movie though is Leo Rossi (Halloween II) as the bum/serial killer Turkell. Oddly enough The Maniac Cop befriends Turkell and even lives with him for an extended period of time! Turkell is a nut job, talking to himself a mile a minute, mean-while Z'Dar gives a menacing & threatening performance as the Maniac Cop. The dynamic between these two characters is bound to draw comparisons to Frankenstein's monster and I'm sure that was intentional.

While the first film was a pretty straight forward horror/thriller with bits of action. The sequel pretty much tosses the horror out of the window for full blown balls to the walls action. The film is just jam packed with amazing car chases and a police station shootout that rivals the one from the first Terminator.

The cast does a terric job. In the first film none of the characters ever admitted to how absurd the events happening were. Not the case this time around, the film does feature a nice amount of humor. Claudia Christian (The Hidden) is the perfect side kick to Davi as his police issued shrink. You can also expect some fun cameos from Sam Raimi & even Danny Trejo makes an appearance. 

Maniac Cop was a good film with a fun idea that was never fully realized. Maniac Cop 2 is a great film that fully embraces it's wild concept and jacks it up to 11. The film features no CGI obviously so what you get are some of the most violent squib hits I've seen & pyrotechnics that astonish. The films central set piece involving a character handcuffed to a steering wheel of a car that's rolling down the highway is more exhilarating then any of the CGI enhanced carnage from the Fast & Furious films. This is action/horror filmmaking at it's best and I feel William Lustig really was at the height of his talents when he shot this picture.

So what happens when a director/writer releases one of his own films via his own label? The answer to that question guys and gals is magic! Maniac Cop 2 looks absolutely stunning in High Def. Looking at the transfer it's nearly flawless. A bit of natural film grain is present, the saturation and skin tones are spot on. It boasts strong black levels and the neon sleazy vibe of the big apple is very neon indeed in this jaw dropping transfer. I say jaw dropping because look at any of the previous releases. The fullscreen release from First Look was alright but was one step up from a VHS copy. The UK release was even worse. This BU release is a revelation for this film and for the fans of this flick who've been waiting to see the film as intended.

For audio you have your choice of a robust 7.1 DTS-HD mix which is phenomenal or a 5.1 track. Also if you feel so inclined you can listen to the Isolated music track of Jay Chattaway's chilling score. 

Now what about the extra's? This is one of Blue Undergrounds most jacked up releases yet.

Pretty much the entire cast shows up for "Back On The Beat - The Making Of MANIAC COP 2". Everybody is more then happy to be discussing the flick and they are obviously proud of it. Davi especially is a joy to watch and listen to. Claudia Christian still looks amazing to this day and Z'Dar has some fun anecdotes about filming. We also get to hear a lot about all the amazing stunts performed in the picture. This making of clocks in at about 45 minutes and is essential viewing.

Next up is "Cinefamily Q&A with Director William Lustig" which runs for about a half an hour. As always Lustig is his enthusiastic self who just loves and oozes cinema. It's a fun watch, definitely worth your time.

We also get a single deleted scene which features Sam Raimi as a news reporter. For the fans this little bit is quite the treat, shame it wasn't added back into the film. As it echoes the bar scene from the original film and enhances the subtext that Cohen was going for. Next up, four count em four theatrical trailers for the film and a posters & stills gallery.

Last but certainly not least is a highly enjoyable commentary track featuring Lustig who is joined by the great Nicolas Winding Refn (Drive, Only God Forgives). Lustig does most of the talking but Refn acts as a great moderator/fan prompting Lustig with questions. It's really no surprise to see Refn pop up on this disk. Since Refn & Lustig have known each other since Refn first completed his Danish crime film "Bleeder" back in 1999. What's interesting to note is that on the original release of Refn's first film "Pusher" released by Anchor Bay, Lustig was the one moderating and oozing with fanboy glee. Back on track though, this commentary is a joy. If you dug Lustig's previous commentaries or are a Refn fan you will love it.

Wow... (I'm not talking about the ass above... not entirely) but this is simply one of Blue Undergrounds finest Blu-ray offerings to date. Which is saying something because of their excellent track record. This release is really a must own for action/horror/cult film buffs. It has something that will appeal to everyone & you can't beat the technical specs and the extras are just the icing on this already delicious release. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

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