Daisoujou’s review published on Letterboxd:
As cult films go, consider me in the out-group on this one. It's worth noting that this was the end of my 5 film marathon I mentioned in an earlier review, and I learned that 5 movies in a row is beyond what's reasonable for me -- by the time Maniac Cop had progressed a bit, my attention span was approaching absolute zero. Nonetheless, I think this fails on both counts to be amusing or thought-provoking.
On the pure entertainment side, there's a strong start as we're treated to pure police slasher, with kills coming rapidly. It turns out that it's primarily doing this so that, once reaching a certain point, they don't have to bother giving us kills anymore, but it's fun while it lasts. The fake billy club turning into a knife is a neat trick, though otherwise these are pretty straightforward, mediocre kills, like a large man strangling someone, that sort of thing. Once the film shifts into exploring the identity of the killer and trying to bring his crimes to light, there's not much more fun to be had. Despite the goofy, vaguely unreal nature of his identity, the horror is crowded out for what's nearly just a straightforward police procedural and action movie, filled with arguments with the cop hierarchy and car chases. The worst sin of all is casting Bruce Campbell and failing to give him a single interesting thing to do. He's the asshole cop in the wrong place at the wrong time, playing it straight without even a hint of the energy he brings to the Evil Dead franchise.
And as any sort of social commentary, it's too muddled to be particularly praise-worthy. The very concept of a Maniac Cop nearly necessarily places it within the underdeveloped "bad apple" line of thinking, though the ideas about police are so scattershot that I hesitate to say there's any coherent uniting message about them here. As news about the killer cop gets out, there are some interviews shown demonstrating that people already fear cops: a black man says (quite rightly) that they already kill people, while another guy talks about a toxic desire to be feared and seen as superior. But at the same time, we get citizens violently attacking cops out of fear, feeding the exact false narratives about the danger of their jobs (not to say that there is NO danger, but police mortality is far lower than roofers, garbage collectors, etc., while many police injuries and deaths are not at the hands of "criminals" but rather things like car accidents). The origins of the maniac himself, while I won't spoil them directly, also sprawl in both directions. There's a hint of how cops abuse their power and are able to evade the level of legal punishment that others would receive, but at the same time, the somewhat tragic backstory makes him into a bit of a pitiable figure, a guy with genuine grievances who is simply misdirecting his anger.
The worst part for me is watching an officer, ordered by his superior to drop the "maniac cop" narrative, run to the news to leak the story that it's being covered up... and then never seeing any repercussions for that. No one on the force tries to figure out who leaked that and punish them, they all exclusively shift into solving the case and catching the cop. You know, people who try to expose failings within the police always have a very positive experience with doing so, sure. Looking around reviews on here, this is your "ACAB" movie? Sure they technically try to scapegoat the wrong guy and refuse to listen to the truth but from their perspective there are genuinely good reasons to suspect the wrong guy, while the true story is so fantastical that I'd be calling them idiots if they did believe it without proof. It's hardly a strong criticism that they believe the more reasonable theory.
All Cops are Maniacs. Even Bruce Campbell.