Directed by Alan Smithee
Who sucked all the fun out of the room? It was more or less inevitable that any follow up to Maniac Cop 2 (1990) was going to be inferior, but it’s unlikely anyone knew Maniac Cop 3: Badge of Silence (1993) would be this bad. Anyone except for Bill Lustig and the production team, however, since Lustig walked off the picture as director, forcing the film’s producer to step in and helm the remainder of the film. Yikes. The fact is the film had problems before cameras had even started rolling, and the finger can be pointed to various individuals depending on who you’re asking. What’s indisputable is that this voodoo-heavy final entry is the weakest in the series. It isn’t even ironically bad, or humorously bad – it’s just bad bad, mostly. Only a few minor plot points and Robert Davi’s steadfast portrayal of Det. McKinney keep this entry from being a total slog. If anything, the resulting film serves as a testament to how difficult making a picture truly is, and when one succeeds so well it’s often muddled when the time comes for everyone to try getting lightning back into that bottle. They say success can sometimes kill a business, and it’s just as true in the movies. Despite the success of its predecessor, this third entry only got half the budget. And Lustig had grown accustomed to shooting the series like they were big pictures, which is another reason he left the production. Ultimately, it’s a bit of a miracle Maniac Cop 3: Badge of Silence was actually completed and edited into a mostly-coherent film. But it’s hard to make an argument that it comes close to living up to the series’ other entries.
Just as with the last film, Maniac Cop 3 picks up right after the end credits of the previous film, with Cordell having escaped his burial site thanks to a voodoo ritual some shaman performs for him. Meanwhile, a couple of corrupt cameramen come across a robbery in progress when Officer Kate Sullivan (Gretchen Becker) steps in and tries to negotiate a hostage situation. Turns out it’s an inside job, and one of the robbers shoots her right after she puts a couple slugs in the “hostage”. All of this is captured on video by the news team. But these guys are unscrupulous, so they edit the footage to make it look like Kate intentionally shot the hostage because scandal pays more than truth. The media runs wild with the story, but Kate is left brain dead following her shooting and is unable to tell her side of the story. The department decides to throw her to the wolves, discrediting her name and drawing the attention of Maniac Cop in the process. Taking on cops that are corrupt is sorta his thing, after all. You know who else is out to clear Kate’s name? Det. McKinney (Robert Davi), who finds himself unwittingly teamed up (sort of) with Cordell, taking on the high ranks of the establishment in order to see those in control held accountable. That partnership is tenuous at best, though, and it isn’t long before McKinney would just as soon see Cordell dead for good.
Ah, geez, where to begin. The first problem the film had was shooting without a completed script. Larry Cohen, for whatever reason, hadn’t turned in a final draft to producers by their deadline, which should have been the first indication that production shouldn’t get underway. But it did, because producer Joel Soisson (who also became the director) went ahead and wrote portions of the screenplay himself based on the rough outline Cohen had provided months earlier. This wasn’t entirely a bad idea since he had previously received a writing credit for the 1986 cult classic Trick or Treat. Still, Soisson isn’t Cohen, and nobody writes like Cohen, so to attempt emulating his style while also guessing where he would have taken the script was a fool’s errand. But movies don’t care, and once those wheels were in motion Soisson had to think quickly.
Ironically, the best part of the film almost got left out. Robert Davi was not the intended lead, which would have been a Haitian refugee cop who had a background dealing with voodoo. This obviously would have helped the voodoo angle made any damn sense. But they couldn’t sell a black man as the lead to the Japanese market, so Davi was brought back on board with an even meatier role. Cordell is practically a co-star in this film, because the majority focuses on Det. McKinney and his street level detective work to clear Kate of any wrongdoing. As an added bonus, we get a mini Die Hard (1988) reunion thanks to both Paul Gleason and Grand L. Bush joining the cast.
Robert Forster also appears here in a very brief role as a head doctor who winds up as another one of Cordell’s victims. But it’s his unintentionally hilarious expression before he gets it that makes his fleeting time with us memorable. Jackie Earle Haley shows up as a scummy robber, looking grimy and unkempt. It’s funny how these films have turned into a who’s-who type situation as many of the smaller names went on to big things.
Cordell’s makeup isn’t quite as bad as the first film, but it might as well be because they jettisoned the iconic look of that had been introduced last time. As usual, he’s mostly glimpsed in shadow or shot from the rear, but when the film does decide to show him you’d rather he just went back into the darkness. It would’ve been awesome to see a company like KNB tackle this project; the makeup used here is lacking in so many ways.
Oh man, the film almost lost me when they started showing Cordell’s imprisonment flashback scene again. Fans will remember the long, laborious sequence (which, oddly enough, feels all too rushed and underwritten) where Cordell is taken into prison, taunted, and then he showers and fights attackers in very slow motion. That scene felt longer than the rest of the film. Then, they showed it in its entirety in the sequel, which quite honestly is the only slow part of that film. So, when the footage started up again here I assumed the filmmakers had become desperate. Luckily it was slightly altered, but, man, talk about filler.
Luckily, we’ve still got Spiro Razatos on board as stunt coordinator. Since Lustig left the picture, and it had a smaller budget, the action isn’t nearly as big as the last time. That’s not to discredit Razatos’ work, since there’s still amazing stuff like a lengthy car chase with a stunt man on fire the entire time. It’s the kind of thing no production would ever do again. Ever. It would be CGI and that would be the end of it. The action in these films is almost better than the horror.
It would have been interesting to see Cohen’s original script filmed (a synopsis of it is included as an extra here) because the vibe he and Lustig were going for was Bride of Frankenstein (1935). There are hints of that plotline woven throughout the film’s climax, and it would have been at least been more entertaining than this voodoo malarkey. Maniac Cop seems to work best when he’s got a partner to balance him out. Maniac Cop 3 should have been a better film, so it’s frustrating to see what was presented. If nothing else, it’s worth watching to see Robert Davi sink his teeth into a leading role. As the closing film to the series, it’s a shame they couldn’t have worked out a better film.
Even though this is a bastard stepchild to Bill Lustig, that didn’t stop him from giving it the royal-ish treatment for its blu-ray debut. Like the last film, this one was scanned at 4K from the original camera negative, making this the best anyone has ever seen the film. Bucking the trend set by the previous two films, this one was lensed in scope 2.35:1, something that does aid in making the film look grander than it is. This entry has a palette steered toward steely blue hues and warm, red tones. The picture is sharp and clean, free of debris and scratches. There’s a moderate layer of grain, preserving the cinematic aesthetic. Detail remains strong, even in the shadows which is important because this film was shot with low lighting. The English DTS-HD MA 5.1 surround sound track provided here is sonically less impressive than the last film’s robust audio. The sound field is narrower here, and although dialogue is still balanced well in the mix there’s a confinement to the rest of the audio. Maybe it’s just because composer Joel Goldsmith’s score isn’t all that memorable, coming across as too subtle and not terribly worth remembering aside from the Maniac cop theme. Rears still provide subtle support to the background, but overall this just isn’t very active aside from a few action set pieces.
Lustig opted not to record a commentary for this film, and watching the included short documentary, “Wrong Arm of the Law: The Making of Maniac Cop 3”, it’s easy to understand why. This piece, running for 25 minutes, is a warts-and-all, completely unvarnished account of what went wrong with this picture. Input is given from Lustig, Soisson, Cohen, and other cast & crew. What’s really interesting is to hear the different takes on the production everyone has, making this like an unintentional Rashomon (1950) or something. Hear shocking tales, like how the first rough cut of the film – which included all the footage they’d shot – ran for 51 (!) minutes. Sounds like it was a nightmare behind the scenes. The disc also includes seven deleted scenes (in full HD) that are mostly minor dialogue extensions and exposition, nothing crucial or noteworthy. There is also a theatrical trailer included, and another poster & still gallery featuring a couple dozen images. As a very cool bonus, the disc also includes a few pages of Larry Cohen’s original treatment for the sequel. Things would have gone in a very different direction, one that had echoes of Bride of Re-Animator (1989).
Maniac Cop 3: Badge of Silence is the unfortunate victim of bad blood behind the scenes, something that can (and has) befall many a film. It only manages to stay above water thanks to a powerhouse performance from Robert Davi (if only they allowed him to sing, too) and some eye-catching stunt work from Lustig’s usual crew. But outside of that, it’s as forgettable as any other poorly-planned sequel.
2 1/2 out of 5
3 out of 5