You’d think that being an undead, practically unkillable engine of destruction would garner you certain privileges in the world of the horror franchise but it seems that even the square-jawed butcher in blue, Matt Cordell has a weakness that has brought many an established character low in the town of Hollywood. So what could this all defeating element be that could halt the rampage of a character that had two immensely entertaining, trashy, horror-thrillers under his belt? Fire? Nah, he shrugged that shit off impressively during the climax of his last adventure. Bullets? Seriously, guy? Bullets? Do you even Maniac Cop, bro?
No, the thing that stopped our officer Cordell from nailing a perfect trilogy of low tech thrills, spills and kills is the predictable spectre of studio interference, something no cinematic character can hope to endure from no matter how many near death experiences they’ve dragged themselves back from.
What’s most disappointing is that the main contributors that made the first two movies so air punchingly fun are still present and correct, but writer Larry Cohen and director William Lustig were reportedly thwarted by producers new to the series who thought they knew better than the people who created it to the extent that they directed extra scenes leading Lustig taking his name off the movie. Ditching the balls to the wall, comic book action for a more budget friendly tale of slow burning suspense (and, for some reason, voodoo), Maniac Cop 3 is a significant step down in quality for the “wrong arm of the law” and essentially killed the franchise cold.
After the fiery conclusion of the previous movie which cleared Cordell’s name, it seems that the hulking officer has finally found rest as he enjoys his well earned retirement six feet under. However, a practitioner of voodoo has decided to revive Cordell for reasons that aren’t exactly too clear (do voodoo priests need six foot, zombie cop assistants to pick up their dry cleaning or something?) and soon the infamous Maniac Cop is wandering the streets of NY once again.
Menwhile shoot first, ask questions never rookie Kate Sullivan is gunned down while attempting to stop the robbery of a pharmacy after it turns out that it was an inside job. However a gaggle of sensationalist cameramen fudge the footage of the crime to make it look like she blew away an innocent bystander instead of defending herself from an armed assailant and soon she’s brain dead in a coma while her good name is dragged through the mud. Naturally, Cordell doesn’t take kindly to cops being framed by corrupt officials and desides to intervene by taking brutal vengeance upon anyone involved in framing her but he an unexpected ally who shares his views, if not his methods. Old adversary, Detectice McKinney also has a dog in this fight as the young officer is a protege of his and also isn’t about to stand for this miscarriage of justice; but soon finds himself not only battling for Kate’s good name but going head to head with Cordell for possession of her soul. You see, it seems that years of being a vengeful undead police officer must be quite lonely so Cordell wants this kindred spirit to be resurrected so they can be a Maniac Couple.
With the uneven tonal shift enforced by the producers, Maniac Cop 3 tries to turn the comic book action of the fantastic part 2 into a more sinister, standard slasher which only results in sucking much of the fun out of such an outlandish concept. Even the dingy cinematography strangles all of the former colour out of the deliciously campy concept and the replacing of Jay Catterway’s energetic theme in favour of a more generic horror soundtrack is the final indignity.
Despite the low rent, under achieving feel of this (to date) final installment is a suprising clutch of recognizable actors bobbing about the place. Both the always entertaining Robert Davi and the considerable jawline of Robert Z’Dar return (obviously) but they are also joined by such actors of note as the late, great Robert Forster, an early role for Jackie Earle Hayley and a brief appearance of Die Hard’s Dawyne T. Robinson (Paul Gleason).
There’s still a slight thread of the overblown sence of humor the series once had, a heckler who unwisely refers to the police as a bunch of cowboys is hurled high into the air and plugged repeatedly by Cordell’s revolver and an asswipe doctor is fried with a decidedly unprofessional use of a defibrillator but in general the kills in this installment are relatively tame affairs. However thankfully the film manages to pull out a final act save that finally recalls the high concept lunacy that made the series such a beloved franchise of mine in which McKinney and Cordell engage in a furious car chase in which the burly villain stubbonly spends the whole time on fire. Not many two star movies feature an extended inferno traveling at 80 miles per hour…
While this bizarrely exhilarating sight is too little to late to save the movie as a whole, it does just enough to remind you that as a character, the Maniac Cop really did deserve wider recognition (there’s something oddly reassuring about a cinematic serial killer who has polished shoes) and that any form of reboot, redux or re-anything in any format would be more than welcome.
But for this final installment, thanks to all the unnecessary tinkering, the Maniac Cop has unfortunately copped out.