The police are supposed to help people. We’ve been taught this from a very young age, and whenever stories on the 11 o’clock news about a corrupt cop, or an officer that has been charged with a crime – that violates the trust between the police and the public. When you have cops like this one the street, you figure it’s just a couple bad apples. But, when you have one on the streets that is killing innocent people and other police officers, that’s when you have a MANIAC COP!
After the murders of two innocent citizens by an assailant dressed as a police officer, Det. Frank McCrae (Tom Atkins) is assigned to the case. He recognizes one of the victims and believes right off the bat that this isn’t just someone imitating a cop, that the perpetrator is actually an active officer and he lets the commissioner (Richard Roundtree) know. He asks that all officers who have had failed a psych exam and fit the profile of the assailant be brought in for questioning. When officer Jack Forrest’s (Bruce Campbell) wife is brutally murdered and he fits the killer’s build, he’s brought in and thrown in the slammer.
Things aren’t always as they seem, however. It couldn’t have been Jack… he was having an affair on his wife and she walked in on them doing the nasty. To make matters more complicated, he was having an affair with a fellow officer, and she’s his eyewitness. The whole thing is a setup! After some investigating, McCrae realizes that this killer can only be one person… Officer Matt Cordell (Robert Z’Dar). The only problem with this theory is that Cordell has been dead for years, after he was thrown in Sing Sing Correctional Facility with the criminals he threw in there and they cut him up! He was thrown in there under false pretenses though, and now he’s back to get revenge on the mayor and the commissioner! Now Cordell has a mole in the police department telling him their every move. Can McCrae clear Jack’s name and put a stop to the Maniac Cop!?
Maniac Cop is a great premise. When you have a rogue cop that’s taking care of business on the streets and playing judge, jury and executioner, that can be a scary thing, and this idea plays on that trust. It tries to keep you in the dark on just who this maniac cop is… what does he look like, what’s his motive, who’s helping him on the inside – and it slowly lifts that veil fill you on each of those questions.
One of the things it doesn’t do is explore the character of Frank McCrae though. I love Tom Atkins, and as usual he does a great job in this movie, but I wish they hadn’t left those loose ends out there. They mention an issue he had where he shot himself after the death of his partner, but it’s just mentioned in passing. I just wonder why these things get mentioned if you’re not going to explore that side of the character for more than just effect. It doesn’t really add the character. I also liked the fact that they kind of played with your emotions a little bit in the respect that you’re lead to believe that McCrae is the central part of the story, when in the end, he’s really just a vessel to get the story from point A to B. Bruce Campbell does a great job too. It’s one of the first things I’ve seen him in where it doesn’t feel like he’s just playing a slightly different version of his normal “Ash” character. It’s not an Oscar worthy performance, but it’s good to see a different side of him.
The special effects are well done, and it doesn’t come off as cheap in any parts. While there isn’t a lot of gore, I was pretty entertained by how easily the Maniac Cop could throw people around, or if he shot someone, his weapon seemed like it was the most powerful gun ever created. He’d fire off a shot and it would lift them about 10 feet in the air, and push them back another 20 feet. Now that’s some mean sh*t!
Maniac Cop is a great horror/action movie that isn’t afraid to give away the story after an hour. Once they develop that whole world around these characters, then they let those characters play in that world, and that’s a bit of a relief because you’re not waiting until the end of the movie for one last twist – it’s all laid out there for you. If you’re a fan of Atkins, Z’dar or Campbell, this is one you have to see, even if the ending doesn’t make much sense in the grand scheme. Maniac Cop scores 3 “it’s gotta be scarier than AIDs” out of 5.
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