Saturday, May 14, 2011

May 12 - The Wrong Arm of the Law is back

Maniac Cop 2 (1990)
Director: William Lustig
Format: VHS (CBS Fox Video)

Two years after the original, director William Lustig and writer Larry Cohen are back with the continued adventures of the Cop with the Chop, the Wrong Arm of the Law, Matt Cordell (Robert Z'dar).

Picking up where the first movie's ambiguous ending left off, the seemingly-invincible undead cop returns to the streets of the Big Apple to kill off innocent people in gruesome (and often-times humorous ways).

Bruce Campbell and Laurene Landon are also back as our good guy couple, but their appearances are nothing more than cameos. Once they're gone we get new protagonists in the form of the brooding Robert Davi (THE GOONIES) and Claudia Christian (THE HIDDEN), who like Campbell and Landon play cops, although not lovers. Christian is definitely an upgrade over Landon's sub-par acting, and while I'm a big fan of Campbell, Davi brings a hard-boiled, gritty edge to things.

Often filmmakers can be tempted to simply repeat what worked in the original, offering nothing new, but to their credit Lustig and Cohen mix things up. They give their bad guy a sidekick, a sleazy serial killer played by Leo Rossi (HALLOWEEN 2), looking more than a little big Charles Manson-esque.

Other new cast members include Clarence Williams (THE MOD SQUAD TV series), Charles Napier (RAMBO) and Danny Trejo, the latter in a brief cameo.

As well as adding the serial killer sidekick, Lustig and Cohen take their original ingredients and increase the dosage - in this case amping up the levels of action (including one cool scene where Christian's character is handcuffed to a car which is sent down a hill), sex (lots more boobage than the original) and violence.

The comparisons to more famous 80s slasher series can again be made - Cordell is essentially Jason Vorhees with a badge, there's a cool scene at a shooting range where he looms out of the darkness in a very Jason/Michael Myers-like way, and the opening sequence of the film has a real Nightmare on Elm St feel to it.

My overall verdict is that Maniac Cop 2 repeats what made Maniac Cop so good, while also switching up a few things to keep it from getting repetitive. I can see why these movies have a cult following - as far as 80s B-movie action-horrors go, they're top notch.

Oh, and be sure to keep watching during the credits to hear the awesome Maniac Cop rap! With lines like "You can run him over, you can feed him poison, push him out a window, it only annoys him", we're talking movie soundtrack gold!

Pre-movie trailers on my VHS: Home Alone, Predator 2, Coup de Ville, Edward Scissorhands Marked for Death, Cold Justice.

Maniac Cop 3: Badge of Silence (1993)
Director: William Lustig
Format: VHS (Triumph Releasing)

Completing the Maniac Cop trilogy, Badge of Silence treads familiar territory and unfortunately is unable to live up to the standard of it's two superior predecessors.

Robert Davi is back as Detective McKinney, who once again is embroiled in a mystery surrounding a series of killings. Well, it's a mystery to him. We know the culprit is undead cop Matt Cordell (Robert Z'Dar), now looking dark and crispy after his firey finale in the second movie.

The first two movies (the original in particular) feature interesting supporting casts made up of character actors and genre favourites. Sadly the best Badge of Silence can offer is a guy who ended up as a regular on Melrose Place (Doug Savant) and the teacher from The Breakfast Club (Paul Gleason). Jackie Earle Haley (Freddie Krueger in the abysmal Nightmare on Elm St remake) also features as a scumbag criminal who assumes the sidekick roll filled by Leo Rossi in part 2.

The filmmakers try to keep things interesting by introducing two subplots - one involving voodoo, the other a female love interest/obsession for Cordell - but the humor is gone, as are the crazy characters Cohen loves to write. The inventive kills continue and there's plenty of gun-play and a visually-striking ending, but watching this one back-to-back with part 2, it just feels like there's something missing.

Badge of Silence isn't a bad movie by any means, but is easily the weakest entry in the Maniac Cop series.

Pre-movie trailers on my VHS: Hard Justice, Red Scorpion 2, Bad Boys, Blankman, Oblivion, Brainscan, Nighttrain to Venice, Gettysburg

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