Maniac Cop is one of the great hidden gem trash trilogies of the 80’s and has now been picked up for a reboot by Nicolas Winding Refn, which I couldn’t be more excited for. It’s time to revisit my favourite of the sequels, William Lustig’s Maniac Cop 2, which sees undead psycho cop Matt Cordell (Robert Z’Dar and his epic jawline) come back for some more supernatural police brutality and wanton carnage. Originally arrested for excessive force, he was assaulted in prison and came back from the dead as something else, something way worse than your garden variety rogue cop. This is one of those slash n’ burn sequels that kills off the heroes of the first film within minutes of getting underway, which I always find hilarious. As such we only see Bruce Campbell’s Jack Forrest briefly but any appearance from him always helps a film. This time veteran Sergeant Sean McKinney (Robert Davi, never more badass) is on the hunt for Cordell, along with a police psychologist (Claudia Christian). Cordell has plans beyond simply killing everyone in his path this time though, and begins to recruit similarly minded lowlifes for his own personal army starting with a Manson style serial killer (Leo Rossi) who targets strippers. This is trash, there’s no beating around the bush. But it’s gourmet trash, it knows it’s groove and hums along beautifully within it. Cordell is a spectacular villain, a physically imposing juggernaut, whether he’s beating people senseless or Terminator-ing an entire police precinct singlehandedly. Check out the first and third ones too, they’re epic although this has always been the pinnacle for me. These films are perfect relics of a lost era when seedy genre stuff ran the show, and I can’t wait to see the spin Refn will give to them.
Sylvester Stallone has never been leaner, meaner and more badass than he was in Cobra, an absolutely unapologetic piece of hyper-violent, deliriously blessed trash from the 80’s, that glorious decade of synth pop music, neon lights and action spectacle supreme. As super cop Marion Cobretti, he uses a laser sighted sub machine gun and pearl handled colt pistol to deal out justice his own way in a hellish nocturnal LA that’s under the grip of a heinous serial killer dubbed the Night Slasher (a juiced up Brian Thompson). Slasher and his disciples are murdering left and right in the most violent and cold blooded ways, and the only witness left alive (Brigitte Nelson) has to tag along with Cobra and his deadly quest. A delightful simplicity can be found in these types of films, but this one isn’t just your garden variety actioner. There’s a reckless penchant for excess and stylistic flourish put into everything from Cobra’s gorgeous 1950 Mercury to his specific weapons to the Night Slasher’s gut ventilating melee knife to the beautifully threatening synth score to Stallone’s windshield size sunglasses, this thing is pure a*e*s*t*h*e*t*i*c! It’s no wonder that auteur stylist Nicolas Winding Refn was influenced by the tone of the film and by Cobra himself, who moodily chews on a matchstick later echoed by Ryan Gosling’s toothpick in the modern classic Drive. This is admittedly largely a brainless action flick, no doubt; Stallone dispatches literally hordes of psychopathic goons with his artillery and the final showdown takes place in that ages old, sparking scrap metal factory that we’ve seen in everything from Terminator 2 to Gone In 60 Seconds. Cobra has a wise cracking partner (Rene Santoni) and is hounded by idiotic, misguided superior officers (Art Lafleur and Andrew Robinson), plus he gets to utter some one liners, so all the tropes are there. But there’s just something so sleek and specific about the film’s design that sets it apart, attention to style and design that goes a long way in bringing vision to the screen. Cobra may be just another ultra violent action flick, but it’s cool in ways that others aren’t tuned in to, and I fucking loved it for that.
F. Gary Gray’s A Man Apart isn’t exactly the glowing pinnacle of Vin Diesel’s varied career so far, but it sure as hell isn’t one of the lower points either (I reserve that label for garbage like The Pacifier). A scrappy, brutally violent revenge flick, Vin is cast here as Sean Vetter, moody DEA badass who decides to take on the Mexican cartels almost singlehandedly when they wipe out his family. He drags his partner (Larenz Tate) into going rogue and before he knows it the cartels have dispatched a few colourful contract killers his way including Joker-esque Hollywood Jack (Timothy Olyphant), ruthless cowboy Pomona Joe (Jeff Kober), psychotic Hondo (character actor Marco Rodriguez) and others. Despite heavy reshoots and re-edits, this just works as a dark, entertaining piece of action pulp. Diesel is appropriately fuming as a guy with nothing to lose who is capable of horrific violence at the drop of a hat and has long since broken free of the constraints of his badge, it’s a nice no holds barred turn from the actor. Director Gray has an extensive, impressive resume in the action/crime genre, having helmed everything from The Italian Job to cult classic Friday to one of the Fast & Furious films. A Man Apart certainly isn’t his calling card or most prolific effort, and it has its issues, but I admire how down and dirty it gets, it’s like a 70’s Clint Eastwood flick that is so violent and industrial strength rough that it almost feels like an exploitation film. Fun stuff.
Unspeakable revels in its southern fried trashiness, pulling forth a lurid and grotesque pseudo mindfuck serial killer story that I don’t recall making a whole lot of sense, yet is still barrels of fun to behold the seasoned cast play out. The film’s writer, Pavan Grover, also stars as Jesse Mowatt, a mysterious serial killer with ties to the occult who frames an innocent Mexican migrant (Marco Rodriguez) in several horrific murders. When a scientist (Dina Meyer) uses an experimental mind mapping and truth seeking method on the wrongfully accused man, she is led to Mowatt via some dodgy telepathy. To be sure that Mowatt is guilty, she tries the same method on him and comes across readings that suggest he may be not only inhuman, but altogether unspeakably evil. The gung ho, sadistic prison warden Earl Blakely (a hopped up Dennis Hopper) is ready to pull the switch, but Meyer wants more time to examine Mowatt. Her colleague and mentor Jack Pitchford (Lance Henriksen) advises her against it, sensing the evil. She appeals to the state Governor (a brief Jeff Fahey) who happens to be her former lover, but he is unyielding. Her curiosity towards Mowatt puts her in grave supernatural danger, as Mowatt leers from the shadows of his cell and causes all sorts of unexplainable havoc. It’s a B movie thrill ride through and through, the plot barely registering to the viewer beyond the shock value tactics it employs, mainly giving Grover and Hopper scenery to voraciously gnaw on. In fact, Hopper is so rabid in one particular sequence it makes the viewer question whether the director just told him to ‘go full retard’. I enjoyed it for the actors, all of which I greatly admire. It’s schlock, of the marginally nonsensical variety. As long as you go in with that pre-notion, you can’t blame me for the reccomendation. At least the startling instances of gore are guaranteed a spike in our pulses.