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By the end of Maniac Cop 2 (1990), director William Lustig and screenwriter Larry Cohen have all but cleaned up their corner of Fun City-era New York.
A would-be politician publicly confesses his previous crimes, a babbling wannabe serial killer gets caught, and the zombie cop of the film’s title is laid to rest. But the film’s grim tone is established early on with the death of two of its predecessor’s main characters.
Like most of Lustig and Cohen’s films, Maniac Cop 2 is dopey fun. The plot — Robert Davi’s stoic detective and Claudia Christian’s pushy psychologist hunt an undead lawman (Robert Z’Dar) — is pretty dull, but the film handily coasts on sleazy charm.
Strip club beardos, blind vets hawking newspapers, and pissy cab drivers are the main draw. Z’Dar’s cop is a magnet for emotionally disturbed bystanders, and his rampage is as cleansing as the hard rain Travis Bickle prayed for — and just as indiscriminately damning. Afterward, when the wall-demolishing, bullet-absorbing juggernaut’s hand bursts through a newly interred coffin, it’s not just a perfunctory tease for Maniac Cop 3. He lives on because the world outside of Lustig and Cohen’s window was still sick with rage and paranoia. Maniac Cop 2 is a believably unsettling time capsule reeking of its setting’s and its moment’s worst fears.