From a script by legendary writer/director Larry Cohen comes a story of murder, mistrust, and revenge. This is the first of three films that have a special place in horror fans hearts. Is it good? Depends on your definition. Hallmarks of Cohen's scripts of police drama are inserted into a slasher formula that could have been better than it is. The shining lights in this flick are a handsome and young Bruce Campbell as Jack Forrest and the legend that is Tom Atkins as Detective Frank McCrae. We're thrust right into the midst of a killer wearing a cop uniform and instead of taking out the trash, he's killing innocent people.
From the director of Maniac, one would expect over the top gore and buckets of blood. This film is tame by comparison and a little uneven in tone. Some of the acting is a bit stiff which made me feel like there wasn't enough rehearsal time or something to get things right. As I said before Campbell and Atkins carry this movie. The premise follows ex-cop Matt Cordell (Z'Dar) who was known as a "shoot first, ask questions later kind of guy" and was imprisoned for being a little rough around the edges. It could have been executed so much better but it is a grindhouse classic and one of the last dirty New York films of the 80's.
As with most slasher franchises, the quality varies with subsequent entries (Maniac Cop 2 and Maniac Cop 3: Badge of Silence) but I can't get enough of these cheesy things as it's pure entertainment. Larry Cohen and William Lustig keep up their involvement as writer and director respectively so there is some continuity there. A remake was supposedly floating around in 2017 but never came to light. Recently HBO and Canal+ announced a series in development with Nicolas Winding Refn as executive producer. Given the recent tumultuous headlines involving cops and civilians, this seems a rather bold move to bring the Wrong Arm of the Law back (that's the logline of Maniac Cop 3 by the way). I, for one, would love to see this idea repurposed for a new era.