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Cohen & Tate(1989)
A boy kidnapped by two mismatched hitmen puts them at each other's throats while being driven to their employers, possibly to be killed. Cohen, an older professional becomes increasingly irritated with his partner Tate, a brutish killer, when their prisoner uses unnatural guile and resourcefulness to play them off against each other.
For more about Cohen & Tate and the Cohen & Tate Blu-ray release, see Cohen & Tate Blu-ray Review published by Jeffrey Kauffman on July 11, 2013 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.5 out of 5.
Starring: Roy Scheider, Adam Baldwin, Harley Cross, Cooper Huckabee, Jeff Bennett
Director: Eric Red
» See full cast & crew
Cohen & Tate Blu-ray Review
Kid kidnaps kidnappers.
Reviewed by Jeffrey Kauffman, July 11, 2013
Why do so many films and television series have titles that are simply the surnames of the two lead characters? Does that really tend to impart much information? How, for example, is anyone to know the difference between, say, Starsky and Hutch, Cagney and Lacey, or in fact Cohen and Tate? At least Hatfields & McCoys has a little legendary quality going for it to help usher viewers into its story. Cohen and Tate is actually a modern update of a rather old story called "The Ransom of Red Chief" by O. Henry (for those who are, like I was as a kid, confused as to why this author's surname didn't have an apostrophe—it's because the "O" is an initial, albeit one that has absolutely no relation to his actual name, which was William). That story was a rather whimsical piece that was a kind of warning to potential kidnappers to be careful about what kind of target they chose. Like many of O. Henry's pieces, the ending completely twisted back on itself, to the point where the kidnappers were considering paying ransom to get out from under a less than tolerable "victim". Writer-director Eric Red made his feature debut as a director with Cohen and Tate (he had previously written 1986's The Hitcher), and in his commentary track included on this Blu-ray, he doesn't really deal with the O. Henry source material as much as he talks about how the film was conceived as a sort of "road trip" between two mismatched partners (in crime). On that level, Cohen and Tate is perhaps at least partially successful, though the film often feels like something got lost in translation somewhere along the line, a feeling that's only exacerbated by the fact that the main thrust of the film deals with an apparently helpless young boy who is attempting to navigate the roiling waters swirling around two professional hitmen.
It may seem odd to hear writer-director Eric Red posit John Ford as one of his main inspirations for Cohen & Tate, especially since the film is a contemporary piece that deals with two hit men trying to get a child witness to their mob bosses, where heaven knows what will happen to the kid. The opening sequence of the film is perhaps the most redolent of Ford's work, with a country set prologue that finds the family of young boy Travis (Harley Cross) in a witness protection program sequestered away on a farm that in fact could have come out of a Ford film. When the parents are killed in a gruesome bit of carnage, Travis is kidnapped by "elder statesman" (so to speak) Cohen (Roy Scheider) and hot headed young gun Tate (Adam Baldwin), both of whom are tasked with getting the boy to a never seen Mafioso who wants to know exactly what Travis has seen and knows.
The bulk of the film then plays out in the claustrophobic confines of a car holding this "odd triple". Tate keeps going off the deep end, threatening to kill Travis, while Cohen attempts to moderate the proceedings and make sure their "delivery" goes off as planned. Of course, nothing works out as the two hoped, with both unexpected detours and Travis' rather wise pitting of his two captors against each other getting in the way. What results is a series of vignettes where Tate tends to go bat guano crazy, especially once things begin to go seriously off the rails as the trio makes their way through back roads without much of a clue as to where they are. Cohen may seem relatively rational by comparison, but it's clear he's not above using violence—including against Travis—to complete his mission.
Part of the problem with this scenario is that Cohen and Tate is neither a traditional "road movie" (to say the least) nor a traditional thriller, attempting to navigate a sort of middle ground between the two that is (kind of like Cohen and Tate themselves) neither here nor there. The biggest issue here may be the character of Tate, who simply is such a lunatic that it almost becomes comical after a while. Since few are going to ever believe that the child will face any real danger in the film, despite repeated threats, it makes Tate's increasingly hyperbolic behavior just kind of annoying after awhile. That said, there's considerable tension built in the film's third act, after Cohen thinks he's incapacitated Tate but finds out otherwise. The truest suspense here in fact stems from the interplay between the two title characters rather than anything to do with Travis. Like many familial road vacations, the tot sits in the back seat and provokes the adults into ferocious arguments, and then enjoys the fruits of his labors.
Cohen & Tate Blu-ray, Video Quality
Cohen & Tate is presented on Blu-ray courtesy of Shout! Factory with an AVC encoded 1080p transfer in 1.78:1. Anyone who is familiar with the film only through either its broadcast life or, more recently, the MGM MOD DVD, will most likely be very pleased with this high definition presentation. Colors are much more nicely saturated and fine object detail is also significantly boosted. Those without prior experience with the film may still find things just a bit lacking, mostly due to the fact that so much of the story takes place at night. That means many scenes, especially those taking place within the car, suffer from moderate to sometimes more than moderate crush, with dark hair and the like at times disappearing into the shadowy backgrounds. (By far the "best" looking part of this presentation, at least in a traditional sense, is the opening sequence at the farmhouse, which offers excellent clarity and precision, at least partially due to the fact that things are so well lit.) Some may wish that contrast could have been boosted slightly to help ameliorate the problem with the darker sequences, but generally speaking this is a really solid effort that is certainly the best this under appreciated film has ever looked on home video.
Cohen & Tate Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Cohen & Tate features two lossless audio options, the original mix delivered via DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 and a repurposed DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix. The film is pretty dialogue heavy, and by far the bulk of it takes place within the confines of the car that Cohen and Tate are spiriting their kidnap victim away in, but rather surprisingly, the 5.1 mix does open things up rather significantly, especially in a couple of set pieces, without seeming overly artificial or pretentious. The smack down that climaxes the film benefits immensely from the surround mix, with a much greater sense of immersion due to some very well placed foley effects. The opening farmhouse scene also benefits from the 5.1 mix, not the least of which is due to the added "oomph" in the low end once the carnage breaks out. Dialogue and score are both presented very clearly and cleanly in both of these mixes.
Cohen & Tate Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Cohen & Tate Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Cohen and Tate is often exciting and suspenseful, but it's also highly contrived and artificial feeling a lot of the time. The best thing about this film is Roy Scheider's cool, calculating Cohen, a reserved portrayal that more than capably balances Adam Baldwin's swinging for the fences take on the much more manic character of Tate. The film does have an extremely effective third act, after Travis has frayed the relationship between the two title characters beyond the breaking point, and the big set piece where Tate attempts to take down Cohen and Travis is extremely well done. But like a lot of road trips, Cohen and Tate tends to lose energy almost in spite of itself and the result, while undeniably entertaining, is also kind of exhausting after a while. This Blu-ray offers very good video and audio and nice supplementary features, and comes Recommended.
Cohen & Tate Blu-ray, News and Updates
• This Week on Blu-ray: July 9-16 - July 7, 2013
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