Maniac Cop

Maniac Cop ★★★

Hoop tober No. 4 #35

There's a killer on the loose in the city: mysterious, implacable and apparently unstoppable. So it's a little like The Terminator, except without the techno-dystopian trappings that gave that movie its intellectual flavor, and with only a sixth of that film's budget. Larry Cohen's script makes some clever moves. I particularly liked the way it uses our introduction to Bruce Campbell's Officer Jack Forrest to make us wonder if he might be the killer, and there's also an ambiguous voicemail message which causes a lot of trouble for the heroes. There are great possibilities for political subtext inherent in the premise and Cohen exploits some of them to darkly humorous effect. And I really liked the strong role he wrote for Officer Theresa Mallory, avoiding most of the "hero's girlfriend" and "damsel in distress" clichés, even if Laurene Landon can't make the most of it. It was nice to see Campbell, but his presence just made me daydream of how much more energetic and frenzied a movie Sam Raimi could have made of this material. The real hero of the movie is Spiro Razatos, only 28 when he coordinated the stunts. (More recently, he was brought in by the Russos to maximize the chases and shootouts of Winter Soldier and Civil War.) There is one decent car chase and several amazing stunts in Maniac Cop and those are moments when the perfunctory and cheap feeling briefly goes away. He worked on Maniac Cop II, also written by Cohen — I didn't dig this, but it was definitely good enough to give the sequel a try.

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