"Maniac Cop" (MPAA-rated R, citywide) is the kind of movie that begs to have a title theme song--maybe by Michael Sembello ("He will cut you with a knife. . . . He's a maniac, maniac on the force / And he's dicing like he's never diced before").
It also begs for an anarchic-camp approach, or else a deeper exploitation of the very real fears the common citizenry have of men in blue in so many urban climes nowadays. (One has only to think of news stories about policemen convicted in murder-for-hire trials, or that highway patrolman who pulled over young women on dark off-ramps, allegedly strangling one.)
An action/horror film masochist might settle for just the song, even, but this "Cop" is batting zero for three. That's a surprise coming from writer-producer Larry Cohen--whose own directorial efforts usually manage to combine a light, satirical touch with some sort of topical unease.
Early on, Cohen and director William Lustig do give us a funny, unsettling moment when the maniacal cop in question--whose murder spree targets arbitrary victims--gently raps his baton on a teen-ager's car window. We know that the kid has more to be afraid of than just higher insurance rates.
Interest dissipates, though, when the bad guy turns out to be just another mindlessly vengeful, indestructible "Jason" figure (with a half-baked version of Freddy Krueger's makeup job, no less). And the goofiest sequence, the villain's single-handed slaughter of an entire station house, edges into "Terminator" territory.
Sayeth Maniac Critic: You have the right to remain at home.