Cohen and Tate are the assassins assigned to bring the boy from his rural Oklahoma hidey-hole to Houston. Cohen (the underrated Roy Scheider, Jaws) is the older one with the hearing aid; Tate (Adam Baldwin, Full Metal Jacket, is the younger one who eats wooden strike-anywhere matches. Both have a hand in slaughtering Travis’ parents before throwing the kid in their car and taking off.
Written by Eric Red (The Hitcher and the set-in-Oklahoma Near Dark) in his feature directorial debut, Cohen and Tate is a road movie that exhibits violent tendencies, yet also a bleakly comedic duo in its leads. Scheider is the straight man to Baldwin’s loon, and despite being on the same team, their distaste for one another boils over to a point that the movie should be titled Cohen vs. Tate. The wedge between them is driven wider by the mischievous machinations of li’l Travis; it’s not an understatement to say that Cross steals this show.
But is the show worth stealing? With a strange, schizophrenic tone (aided by a Bill Conti score whose psychotic strings recall Friday the 13th), the film forever sways from engaging to repetitive and back again. It clearly spends too much time in one place (the car), leaving one to wonder, “Are we there yet?” Once Red arrives “there,” Cohen and Tate hits its highest note — also its final shot. It’s a memorable one, even if the impulsive act sadly echoes a real-life tragedy involving Red in 2000. Immediately as the scene played out, my mind made the association; otherwise, I wouldn’t bring the whole sordid incident up, as I had forgotten about it until that moment.
The Blu-ray contains a long look back at the film’s making, with Red and Cross (unrecognizable 25 years later) among those sharing their memories. More than one interviewee mentions how much more violent the original cut was; consult the 20 minutes of deleted scenes for evidence. —Rod Lott