ERIC RED’S COHEN & TATE — A REVIEW BY NICK CLEMENT

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Eric Red’s glorious late 80’s actioner Cohen & Tate, which served as his directorial debut, is a pulpy, bloody blast which features enough child endangerment to choke a full grown horse. Written by Red with his usual brand of genre smarts and directed with lots of grit and sturdy proficiency, the film stars Roy Scheider and Adam Baldwin as deranged assassins who are tasked with kidnapping a 9 year old boy who had previously witnessed a mob killing, and which proves to be their potential undoing. After an absolutely wild and grippingly staged opening sequence where the kid’s parents are gunned down while under witness protection by the FBI, intrepid little Travis Ross (a priceless Harley Cross) attempts to elude his captors, but is eventually nabbed by the two psychopathic killers, but not after being thrown into all manner of distress and turmoil that would leave any child utterly scarred for life. There is a bracing, casual sense of evil glee that permeates the fringes of this film, with Red clearly getting a kick out of seeing so much violent and visceral insanity unfolding in front of a prepubescent protagonist. Because make no mistake, while Scheider and Baldwin are top billed, they are most definitely bad guys, one more than the other, and the true hero of his cult classic is the child. And in the realm of the R-rated action movie, I can think of only a few where a kid is put through the ringer the way Cross was here. And then there’s the hilarity that comes with the overall ineptitude of Cohen and Tate themselves as professional killers; they’re constantly getting lost and are frequently outsmarted by a child who would probably give Kevin MacCallister a run for his money in the shenanigans department. Red’s usual sense of cinematic nihilism is on full display, and Scheider clearly had a ball with his no-bull-shit character which afforded him the chance to add yet another extremely memorable tough guy to his arsenal of legendary screen performances. There’s a Walter Hill vibe during certain stretched of Cohen & Tate, and while it doesn’t hit the existential notes that Hill so often explored, there’s a crisp and effective brittleness to the entire picture that hints at the hardscrabble nature of a low-budget effort such as this one. Bill Conti’s terrific and weird and extra suspenseful score punctuates the entire film with perfectly timed jolts of excitement, and Victor J. Kemper’s nighttime dominated cinematography looks extra crisp and slick via Shout! Factory’s special feature loaded Blu-ray release. This is film that’s ripe for rediscovery and reconsideration for fans of this sort of ass-kicking entertainment.

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