Cohen & Tate (1988) directed by Eric Red
The directorial feature debut of Eric Red, who wrote The Hitcher and Near Dark, Cohen & Tate is an entertaining little thriller that shows great economy in its storytelling. A family is being sequestered by the FBI’s witness protection program in a house in the middle-of-nowhere Oklahoma. The protection is pretty terrible, as two contract killers easily break in, shoot everyone and kidnap 9-year-old Travis Knight (Harley Cross) — presumably a key witness — to return him to their mob boss in Houston.
The killers are the levelheaded Cohen (Roy Scheider) and the manic, unstable Tate (Adam Baldwin), and when Travis realizes how much they hate each other, he decides to play each one against his partner in hopes of escape.
Almost the entirety of the film takes place in a moving car on the highway at night, and Red does an admirable job keeping the film kinetic and engaging in the single location. He’s aided greatly by Scheider, whose steely-eyed, getting-too-old-for-this-shit kidnapper is one of his last great roles. Baldwin is suitably insane and even Cross, who tests the patience somewhat with his outbursts, is a fairly credible child actor.
The film doesn’t go to great lengths to make sure we’re filled in on all the details, but opts instead for a lean, tense thriller that hits critical mass in the final moments and ends abruptly with a truly great final scene.
This release marks the film’s first time on DVD and the anamorphic widescreen image is solid, with stable colors, decent black levels and only occasional damage. The disc includes the film’s theatrical trailer.