Cohen and Tate (1988)


Two hit-men (Roy Scheider, Jaws, and Adam Baldwin, My Bodyguard) brutally kill a couple, kidnap their kid and take the child on a long, long road trip to meet the mafiosos who ordered the hit.

Reaction & Thoughts:

“I’m warning you. I should’ve painted the seat with your brains, boy.”

From the moment the two assassins walk into an isolated farmhouse and savagely kill everyone in sight, Eric Red’s rabid, mean-spirited neo-noir Cohen and Tate asks the viewers to fasten their seatbelts because they are about to embark on a no-holds-barred journey through the dark underbelly of society.

Screenwriter Red (Near Dark and The Hitchhiker), who made his directorial debut here, seems to be paying tribute to the minimalist film noirs of yesterday, a sort of homage to Detour (1945), Impact (1949),  The Narrow Margin (1952) and The Hitch-Hiker (1953). It also anticipates Quentin Tarantino’s crime movies.

Cohen and Tate is blessed with huge amounts of dark humor — the film is very funny, albeit in a sly kind of way. I do have to warn viewers: the “jokes” are cruel and tasteless. Cohen and Tate also uses the child-in-peril plot device in a diabolically smart manner. The film generates enormous suspense precisely because you are convinced that the kid could be killed at any given moment — the child is in real danger!

Adam Baldwin is the psychotic young assassin and Roy Scheider is his partner, a veteran and cold-blooded hit-man. They are killers who disagree on almost everything. This ain’t yin vs yang; it’s more like young yin vs old yin. I particularly liked how the film resisted the temptation of redeeming the main characters. You won’t see sudden changes of heart — the two killers remain bad people from beginning to end.

Scheider is wonderful as the world-weary killer. This is perhaps his last great performance. It’s a welcome return to his pre-Jaws career — Scheider started out playing morally dubious characters in films like Stiletto (1969) and Klute (1971). Baldwin’s cockiness contrasts perfectly with Scheider’s “old-school” thinking. Harley Cross (Mrs. Soffel and The Believers), who plays the kid, is very good too.

Conclusions & Final Thoughts:

Cohen and Tate isn’t as polished as Quentin Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs (1992) or Tony Scott’s True Romance (1993), but it is quite compelling and engaging. The dialogue is razor-sharp and the situations are very suspenseful. The actors are great too. Highly recommended to (neo)noir fans! Color, 86 minutes, Rated R.

7 responses to “Cohen and Tate (1988)

  1. I know this is wrong, I know this is a “me” problem, and I even do it with “The French Connection,” but I can’t look at Roy Scheider and not see “Chief Brody.” Can you imagine how messed up if Spielberg had landed his first choice for that role…Charlton Heston?

    Liked by 1 person

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