mosquitodragon’s review published on Letterboxd:
I've only recently learned how cohesively this film links up with its sequel to tell a whole story, so while I'm waiting for my Maniac Cop 2 blu-ray to come from the US (yay for my all region player!), it seemed apposite (as the kids would say) to revisit the original.
I somehow needed this movie right now. I don't know why this should be the case, but as this film rolled on through its pulpy, exploitation-ish duration, and people like Bruce Campbell and Tom Atkins and Robert Z'Dar paraded past me on screen, it made me so weirdly happy. Maybe I haven't been watching enough 80's horror lately. Or maybe I'm just a bit pathetic that way. Actually, definitely both of those things.
Larry Cohen was the king of high concept. The base idea of a cop being a slasher villain is just so genius. What defence could you have against him? And at first, this just feels like a great idea because you can expand the world of a slasher flick from a remote lakeside camp or a small suburb to a massive metropolis like New York.
And then of course, you think about George Floyd, who is only our most recent example of victimhood at the hands of police - those whose villainy is such a perversion because they are the ones we entrust to guarantee our safety. I mean, we literally pay their wages, for fuck's sake. What suckers we are. It's not good enough.
These nasty echoes of the real world come back at us through Maniac Cop in that little vox pops section, where the black guy talks frankly about how he's scared of cops anyway, in case they see something shiny and assume it's a gun. I'm not arguing Cohen and Lustig were necessarily getting on their soapboxes about this issue in 1988, but they were aware of what they were saying. And regardless of their intent, the film is like an eerie time-lapsed social mirror to help us take a look at ourselves, whether it meant to or not.
But don't let my morose musings ruin your enjoyment of what is, in essence, a wonderful slice of nasty cinematic fun. If Lou Reed was the grungey poet of New York, I guess Bill Lustig was the gutter-level poet of New York. Although this film is a light-hearted romp compared to his earlier Maniac, I still think it's an under-rated gem.