In the tradition of MANIAC COP 2, MANIAC COP 3: BADGE OF SILENCE begins with footage from the end of the last one. Undead Maniac Cop Matt Cordell (Robert Z’Dar)’s honor guard funeral is intercut with new scenes of a voodoo priest (Julius Harris, also in Larry Cohen’s BLACK CAESAR) stabbing a head with a ritualistic dagger and chanting. So now we know that part 2’s CARRIE-esque ending is actually a voodoo curse. Man, first Chucky, then Screwface, now this. What the bloodclot, voodoo?
Robert Davi returns as Mac, who is investigating these voodoo guys and suspects a connection to Cordell. Claudia Christian’s character Riley doesn’t show, but there’s another female lead (Gretchen Becker), a younger officer nicknamed “Maniac Kate” for her Dirty Harry type approach to law enforcement. Mac knows her mother and considers her a kid sister, but seems kind of flirtatious in their first scene together at the gun range (hopefully now renamed The Six Target-Shooting Officers Killed By Maniac Cop In Part 2 Memorial Gun Range) where they take turns shooting the target while she vents about getting in trouble for shooting an attempted rapist. Mac says she should’ve waited a little longer so she could’ve shot more than just an attempted rapist. Classy.
Maniac Kate responds to a pharmacy holdup by a crazed pill-feaster (Jackie Earle Haley in the movie that came before the one that earned him an Academy Award nomination for best supporting actor). Kate and the junkie end up in the hospital, the hostage dead, and a pair of sleazy tabloid video journalists film the whole thing and broadcast an edited version that makes her look like she was in the wrong.
Mac knows something is up here, so he looks into it despite the objections of the bosses at HQ and the doctors at the hospital. There is disagreement about if Kate will ever wake up or not, her mother wants her to go to the Lord if He calls her, and the city wants to unplug her to avoid a lawsuit from the junkie. This last piece of information is revealed in an A+ scene where head doctor Robert Forster does a walk and talk with Paul Gleason while doing his rounds in the busy trauma ward. The doc listens to the city’s pitch, agrees to euthanize when he has an opening in the afternoon, then asks about getting Knicks tickets for visiting relatives. Kate’s death could be just another favor between buds.
Weirdly it seems like the story is mainly about Mac and Comatose Kate, with title character Cordell just wandering around on the outskirts of the story, occasionally killing off characters. But he gets a couple good ones. My favorite is when a random dude outside the hospital starts talking shit to him about what he heard on the news about the shooting. Cordell grabs the guy, tosses him up high and shoots him several times in the air, like a cowboy doing a trick shot on a beer can.
The Cordell/Kate connection turns out to be that Cordell has some kind of Maniac Crush on Kate. He secretly visits her hospital room and kills people to protect her. He’s trying to marry her in some telepathic purgatory. It’s weird. (Also, poor Sally Noland from part 1. I hope she never hears about this.) He’s pretty clever about the way he protects her. Instead of going on a hospital gun rampage himself he simply leaves a gun with Jackie Earle Haley, knowing that crazy dopehead will do it for him.
Davi is really good again. I guess it’s so rare he gets to be a good guy that when he does he pulls out all the stops. It’s a quiet performance that almost seems too nuanced for a movie called MANIAC COP 3: BADGE OF SILENCE, especially one that is the third movie in a series about a maniac cop. It’s an odd mix of styles, but that’s what’s great about it.
This is a step down from part 2, but not a total embarrassment. So I was surprised to see Lustig credited as Alan Smithee (apparently a change he made when his own home video company Blue Underground re-released it). The blu-ray has a really good, candid making-of featurette that explains why he disowned it. Cohen had written a movie about a black detective in Harlem, but the new producers said they couldn’t sell it in Japan with a black lead and had them rewrite it for Davi’s character. Cohen had also planned for Laurene Landon’s character Theresa to return in a coma after her neck-snapping in part 2, but Lustig didn’t want to work with Landon for some reason so that got changed to this Maniac Kate.
So instead of making the movie he and Cohen wanted, Lustig ended up shooting with an unfinished mish mash of different producer’s conflicting ideas. “This was a situation where everybody got to piss in the pot,” he explains. “So that’s what they got. A pot full of piss.” I wonder which pisser came up with “BADGE OF SILENCE”? Maybe that person could explain what it has to do with the movie.
Apparently Lustig’s rough cut (made up “almost exclusively of action” according to producer Joel Soisson) ran a breezy 51 minutes. Soisson wrote some new filler scenes, but Lustig hated them so much he quit and Soisson (who later directed DTV sequels to THE PROPHECY, PULSE and CHILDREN OF THE CORN) took over.
In Soisson’s defense, though, he’s interviewed in the featurette, he defends his actions but admits to mistakes and misunderstandings, and gives Lustig well-deserved praise for the insane action climax, a high speed car chase with Cordell driving while on fire. He admits he would’ve nixed the idea if he’d been more aware of what they were doing. Also, Spiro Razatos speaks highly of him, as does Davi, who says the actors were mostly unaware of any turmoil. And the scene that made Lustig walk off was the one at the shooting range, which isn’t that bad. I kind of liked it.
But if you pay attention there are some cheap shortcuts taken to fill the thing out. They re-use part 2 footage of Cordell spinning his club and pulling out the blade (flipped to mirror image, I think) and, most glaringly, re-use flashback footage from part 1 that was already re-used in part 2. I’m surprised the film’s not worn out. To the contrary, that scene looks particularly great on the blu-ray.
I like how seriously it takes this coma story combined with the ridiculousness of the Bride of Maniac Cop angle, but it does feel too light on Cordell and it seems like the voodoo and marriage subplots are not 100% complete. That’s not that important though. The real missed opportunity with this is that it fails to intelligently address timely issues of police brutality and racial tensions. It was released in July of 1993, about two years after the beating of Rodney King and 15 months after the riots. That beating was a world changing event because the technology of consumer camcorders had finally made it possible to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt what kind of fucked up shit police were doing sometimes. The whole world watched a black man who had been tased twice be beaten by 3 officers, hit 33 times with a baton, kicked 6 times and swarmed by 8 officers. Then, more significantly, we saw the all white officers acquitted of excessive force charges. Their lawyers convinced a mostly white, no black jury that this was within the parameters of reasonable policing. And the gulf between what we all saw with our eyes and what The System decided on the matter was a real eye-opener for alot of us. Even President George Bush said “it was hard to understand how the verdict could possibly square with the video,” that he and his family were “stunned” by the verdict.
MANIAC COP 3’s lip service to King and to videotaping of police brutality – “Cop brutality sells. Just ask Rodney” – is kind of on the shitty side. In the movie’s scenario the officer accused of excessive force is clearly innocent and only made to look bad by the media’s intentionally misleading editing. I don’t buy this because for all of the media’s sins, being too quick to challenge The Man is not one of them. It takes extreme situations for the news to start questioning police. They are terrified to challenge the status quo. They love those ratings but smearing a random police force is not one of the easy shortcuts for them.
A voice on the radio speaks on behalf of Black America, much like the TV man-on-the-street interviewee from part 1. He says “I ain’t afraid of the gangsters out there. It’s the cops. I’m afraid of the cops. They’re psycho, man. Every last one of ’em.” But then he goes on to criticize Maniac Kate for killing the hostage, which we know is inaccurate.
Then of course the onscreen representative for African Americans is the voodoo priest who resurrects Maniac Cop (thanks alot, Japan). The one veiled indication that there is some sort of racial issue with policing is when he tells Cordell “You are the first cop to walk these streets in a long time, my friend.” In other words, they don’t even bother protecting the black neighborhood.
But I think considering what was going on in the country it really was time for the series to deal with the racial dimension of maniac cops more in-depth. Obviously ROBOCOP 3 wasn’t gonna cover it, so somebody from the world of genre trilogies should’ve stepped up. Of course this is a fictional story, it’s not meant to be a direct parallel to the inescapable case of Rodney King. But in my opinion being so like it but not like it is out of touch for the time it was released. They knew they had to reference King, but otherwise they didn’t know how to deal with that situation. That’s a problem.
On the other hand, it bears repeating: he is involved in a long car chase while he is on fire!
Oh, who am I fooling? This is a pretty good pot full of piss. It’s no part 2, but it’s worth watching.
IMPORTANT UPDATE: In my initial posting I forgot to mention the crucial information that Jeffrey Anderson-Gunter appears in one scene as a janitor. That’s the guy that’s in both MARKED FOR DEATH and Michael Jackson’s “Black or White” video.