HBO has green-lit a TV reboot of the Maniac Cop franchise, with Nicolas Winding Refn serving as showrunner and directing alongside John Hyams. The original Maniac Cop film was released in 1988 and starred Robert Z'Dar as Matthew Cordell, a decorated police officer who returns from the dead as a vengeful killer after being wrongly framed by his department and murdered in prison. It bombed at the box office, but went on to become a cult film and even spawned a pair of sequels.
Refn is a known fan of the Manic Cop movies (which blend action-crime with slasher horror), and has been trying to get a reboot off the ground for the last several years. He recruited Hyams to direct a film remake in 2015, with Refn producing and shooting set to get underway in Los Angeles in the summer of 2017. However, that ended up not happening, and Maniac Cop creator Larry Cohen later indicated the remake was dead in the water. As it turns out, Refn and Hyams were really just re-imagining the reboot as a TV series rather than a movie.
Deadline has broken the news that Maniac Cop is now moving forward as a TV show at HBO, with Refn and Hyams directing the entire season in addition to executive producing. According to its synopsis, the show is told "through a kaleidoscope of characters" and revolves around a possibly supernatural "killer in uniform" who murders people both innocent and guilty on the city's streets. Read on for Refn's statement about the news:
“I’ve always been a devoted admirer of John Hyams. We’ve been talking about a re-imagining of the Maniac Cop films for a number of years, but as we continued to work on the material, we found ourselves wanting to explore the world we were creating in greater depth. Turning Maniac Cop into a series will allow us to realize our wildest ambitions and to reach an enormous audience though partners HBO and Canal+. This show will be an unadulterated, action-packed horror odyssey. Given the current state of the world, though, Maniac Cop will also be a strong commentary on the decline of civilization”.
The Maniac Cop reboot is one of a few series based on older IPs that're currently in the works at HBO, along with Steven Moffat's The Time Traveler's Wife adaptation and this month's Watchmen TV show from Damon Lindelof. It also finds Refn and Hyams working firmly in their wheelhouses as storytellers, given their previous experience with "trashy" genre fare. Hyams, for example, helmed the direct to home market sequels Universal Soldier: Regeneration and Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning, whereas Refn has made a career out of directing highly-stylized films with B-movie influences (Drive, The Neon Demon). Maniac Cop will mark Refn's second recent venture into television after his Amazon series Too Old to Die Young (which only just premiered this past June).
Arguably, the main issue with Maniac Cop right now is timing. A show about a police officer (even a vengeful, undead one) running around killing people risks seeming tone-deaf at a time when police brutality is a hot-button issue, especially in the hands of a filmmaker (re: Refn) who's known for fetishizing violence. The upcoming Watchmen will even tackle the topic head-on with its story, which sees the police in the Watchmen universe wear masks in order to protect their identities from a violent cult of Rorshach followers. Ren's claim that Maniac Cop will be "a strong commentary" on the world today suggests the TV show is angling to be a similarly provocative social parable. Whether that's a good or bad thing, though, remains to be seen.
Maniac Cop does not have a premiere date at the moment.