Release Date(s)1989 (July 9, 2013)
- Film/Program Grade: B-
- Video Grade: A-
- Audio Grade: A-
- Extras Grade: A-
Cohen and Tate tells the story of two hit men and their destructive relationship with each other. The film was written and directed by Eric Red, the man behind the cult classics Body Parts and Bad Moon, as well as a shared writing credit with Kathryn Bigelow for the vampire classic Near Dark. The film is also a retelling of the O. Henry short story “The Ransom of Red Chief.”
The film itself is a typical 80’s action thriller, with guns, blood and over-the-top characters, but unfortunately, it hasn’t been distributed very well, so not a lot of today’s film crowds have had a chance to see it. To be fair, I didn’t find it to be a missing masterpiece of the genre, or anything along those lines. However, I did find it to be an admirable attempt. The thing that really bothers me the most about the film is the annoying kid they picked to play the role of the kidnapped Travis. Maybe it’s a personal thing with me though, because oftentimes child actors kill movies for me. It has nothing to do with them as children or as people. They are what they are and they can do very little about it, but putting them in a situation where they have to act just doesn’t work for me, for the most part. They don’t seem to be in the moment. I found myself just wanting somebody to smack Travis around because of his incessant whining, but again, that’s just me.
On the other hand, the performances in the film are pretty good from the two leads: Roy Scheider and Adam Baldwin. While Scheider plays the reserved and professional hit man, Baldwin plays a psychotic murderer that can barely be controlled by Scheider. The rivalry between these two is the reason to see the movie and its eventual outcome. The film gets pretty violent and bloody at times, but not nearly as bloody as it could have been. Particularly the final shootout which was just soaked in gore in the workprint but cut back a bit in the final film. Is it all very thrilling? Yeah, kind of, but I wasn’t really riveted the way I thought I would be. It’s a good film, but not a great one.
As for the film’s Blu-ray presentation, it’s mostly good news. The grain structure is mostly even, but a little heavier in certain shots, while textures and detail are very precise. The film’s color palette doesn’t have a whole lot of flavor or variety to it, but what’s there is very strong. Since the film takes place mostly at night, blacks should be strong, and they mostly are. I did notice some light crush, but not an overt amount. I also felt that the contrast was better than expected, and the night scenes benefited from it. The best the movie looks is during any scenes that take place during the day, particularly the opening scene. But overall, it’s a very fine presentation, especially for a film that’s been hiding in cans as long as this one has. For the audio, you have two options: English 5.1 and 2.0 DTS-HD. I tend to stick with the original soundtrack, but the 5.1 track is mostly good. I felt that the dialogue shined quite well and was well-mixed, especially during some of the louder portions of the film when the score kicks in. The score itself, composed by action score maestro Bill Conti, felt a little out of place and made things seem a little more epic that they actually were. But the score itself is good on its own and worked well with the soundtrack overall. There’s some nice immersive qualities in there as well, with the opening and closing sequences benefiting the most. There are also subtitles in English for those who might need them.
The extras are short and sweet, but pretty informative. There’s an audio commentary with writer and director Eric Red, the A Look Back at Cohen and Tate featurette, deleted scenes, including some uncut alternate scenes, a still gallery and the theatrical trailer. Overall, I think that Cohen and Tate has the potential to be a top notch edge-of-your-seat thriller, but as is, it’s mostly good for the performances. Many people have only seen the film on TV or on bootlegs for years, so it’s nice to see Shout! Factory resurrect yet another cult classic for the masses.
- Tim Salmons