Arrow Video always have surprises up their sleeves and Cohen & Tate is no exception. It’s a late ’80s hitman thriller starring Roy Schneider and Adam Baldwin who was hot off doing Full Metal Jacket the year earlier. It’s directed by Eric Red who wrote the screenplays for two of the best genre films of the ’80s The Hitcher and Near Dark.
Schneider plays Cohen who is an almost samurai like hitman who is doing a job with the psychotic hot head Tate (Adam Baldwin) and they must kidnap a 9-year-old boy Travis Knight (Harley Cross) who is under witness protection after he witnessed a mob killing. They assassinate the parents in a grisly manner after one of the federal agents let them in. They must drive to Houston but there is an increasing antagonism between the two hit man, the cops are on their trail and the boy attempts to escape again and again.
This was Red’s feature directorial debut after much success as a screenwriter and it’s incredibly assured for that transition which too often the finished product is dogged down by the script. It moves at a relentless pace of 86 minutes from the opening assassination at the farm-house where the kid and his parents are hiding out to the shocking ending . It’s a mean nasty thriller that is a violent tour de force which is reminiscent of the nastier side of noir especially the work of Jim Thompson. The ending even has an extra level of art imitates life when Red tried to kill himself after he caused a horrible incident which killed two people.
The role Schneider plays is the kind he could do in his sleep but unlike 52 Pick-Up which is around the same time, he actually is invested in the film enough that it turns out to be one of his better late performances as a leading man. Adam Baldwin is an underrated and underused actor and perfectly captures the psychotic Tate which is what he is good at and has made a career out of playing similar roles such as the ones in Full Metal Jacket and Firefly. Harley Cross is good as the kid and it remains one of the better child performances in a decade of too many “cute” performances by child actors.
Cohen & Tate is a really solid nasty thriller with great interplay by the 3 main players. Eric Red’s work in the ’80s is some of the most daring genre films to come out of that time or any time. He has a deep love for genre but like any good genre filmmaker he messes around with it enough to make his take on it original. The film has never been available on DVD or Blu-Ray in the UK so it’s a real discovery. Arrow has compiled a nice set of features including an audio commentary by Eric Red, a retrospective documentary with most of the surviving cast (except for Baldwin), uncut versions of the most violent scenes and Red’s storyboards. The trailer and stills round it off and in the initial pressing it includes a booklet by Kim Newman who is always worth reading.