HBO is backing a remake of Maniac Cop, but as a TV series. It will be the first production from byNWR Originals, an independent studio launched by Nicolas Winding Refn. Refn and John Hyams will executive produce.
Set in LA, the series will add depth to the characters originally depicted in the 1988 film and if the execution is halfway competent, improve on it immensely. There is currently no scheduled release date, but don’t expect it until 2021.
For Refn’s part, this seems to be something he has aspired to for a while. He announced the project in 2016 as a movie remake but evolved it into a TV series, probably because all the major production studios are snapping up concepts to fill their streaming portfolios. And the formula for an addictive TV series is not only well-known (thus saving anyone heavy lifting), but much more profitable than most movies.
But given Refn’s background, audiences may be in for a little more originality. For those unfamiliar with him, Refn is a Danish filmmaker known in his home country for the Pusher films (1996-2005), which explore the criminal underworld of Copenhagen. Internationally, he earned recognition for the the gritty crime dramas Drive (2011) and Only God Forgives (2013), both featuring Ryan Gosling.
The original Maniac Cop was a poorly made piece of film debris, thrown onto the pile of slasher pulp in the late 1980s. About an ex-cop, risen from the grave, who has the prosaic motive of unleashing his vengeance on those that had wronged him, Maniac Cop bombed at the box office (not even $700,000 on a budget of over $1 million). But the film has become one of those cult classics possibly because it was one of the last grind house films set in New York, or possibly because it fits into the so-bad-its-good category (a la Bloodsucking Freaks). If Refn is trying to improve on this, it won’t take much.
Refn is a serious filmmaker who believes the roots of the concept have potential. We will see what grows from his careful tending and if horror fans are rewarded with tasty fruit.
Trailer for the original film (there isn’t yet one for the series)