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Cohen & Tate is the directorial debut of Eric Red, the screenwriter behind Near Dark and The Hitcher, two stone cold genre classics of the ’80s. This brisk, mean-spirited thriller ditches the supernatural elements, both overt and coded, of those two but retain their American Southwest settings and road movie structure.
Cohen (Roy Scheider) and Tate (Adam Badlwin) are two hitmen tasked with kidnapping Travis (Harley Cross), the witness to a mob slaying, from Witness Protection. Travis is nine years old.
If you’re expecting something along the lines of Clint Eastwood’s A Perfect World, you’re in the right ballpark, but the game being played is not abiding by the usual rules. This is a remarkably nihilistic little flick. Cohen and Tate are cold blooded killers, as evidenced when they calmly execute both Travis’s parents and the U.S. Marshals protecting them. Cohen may be the more world-weary and soft-spoken, and Tate a hair-trigger psycho, but neither are remotely heroic, and young Travis must use all his wits to play them off against each other.
The film’s narrow scope allows Red to dial in on character and mood, and while the basic plot is familiar from plenty of other examples of the genre, the acting turns from all involved are superb. If you’re only familiar with Scheider from his part as Chief Brody in Jaws, this’ll really be an eye-opener for you. Baldwin also gives good psycho, and it’s worth noting that between his sleek shotgun and the red plaid shirt tied around his waist, he actually looks like a cross between Bill Paxton’s Severin in Near Dark and Rutger Hauer’s John Rider in The Hitcher.
For fans of desert noir, this is a must watch. It’s one of those perfectly formed little three star films that does everything it sets out to do with maximum efficiency, and displays little concern for anything that falls outside of its remit. Give it a spin.