Maniac Cop ★★★★

In the wake of the events in Ferguson, Missouri I found myself hyper sensitive to Larry Cohen's script of Maniac Cop. Was Cohen ahead of his time with the social commentary of this film, was I projecting or has American society refused to progress in the past 22 years?

There's a scene where a reporter is on the street interviewing random New Yorkers about the suspected cop killing innocent civilians, a woman says she told her children to run to the other side of the street if they see a cop, and then, a young, black man is interviewed and he tells the reporter - "I've seen plenty of my friends killed by cops." This is not fiction, this is too true, horrifyingly real, still, today in 2014. In flashbacks of the maniac cop we see this shoot first, ask questions later cop, known as Matt Cordell in life, sentenced to prison by a black judge, the flashback then transitions into his walk into prison with inmates lining the walkaway in front of their prison cells and 99% of the inmates were white. The final flashback scene is Matt Cordell's shower attack, again, by other white inmates. This shouldn't be anything noteworthy except in most films the American prison would consist of an almost all-minority population. At this point I am very curious about Larry Cohen and William Lustig's approach to these flashbacks scenes, was this intentional? Or are they only hiring white extras?

Even if I am reading too much into this, it does not lessen the fact that Larry Cohen is a brilliant man; whether he is directing films or penning scripts, he is a storyteller with his finger on the pulse of America's social issues.

When I think of gritty, New York films with a penchant for gorilla style filmmaking there are a few names that come to mind: Lustig, Cohen, Henenlotter, and Findlay, even Joseph Zito's Bloodrage. Maniac Cop came out in the late 1980s, a short time before NYC was washed clean of its seedy, dark reputation and replaced with pod people repping corporate chains. Manhattan may not be the same but thankfully these directors documented the old ways of the filthy-beautiful city. There's a great example of this where Lustig filmed a St. Patrick's Day parade and I would assume that scene was done without permits.

Maniac Cop has a wonderful cast, great stunt work, waist-cam, memorable POV shots/camerawork, old NYC, gore, and a slasher script about an unstobble killer who happens to be a cop, written by Larry Cohen - if I didn't love this movie, I would need you to tuck me into bed and take my temperature. Stylistically and comprehensively, I love this movie, it doesn't just appeal to me--it was made for me.

And I'll leave you with something that warmed my heart, in a scene where Richard Roundtree told Tom Atkins he never smiles, and Atkins' character makes a painful, unnatural and uncomfortable expression showing his attempt to smile on demand - that's me, every time.

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