I love my city but Houston, Texas isn’t exactly known for its contributions to cinematic history. Oh, sure, we’ve got Terms of Endearment and Rushmore – both classics in their own right – but the years are long between memorable films shot in Texas’ Space City. I feel it is my duty as programmer for the Alamo Drafthouse Cinemas in Houston to remind the city of our brief tastes of the spotlight. It’s the reason why I program yearly screenings of I Come in Peace and it’s the reason why I got so excited when I learned Shout! Factory was releasing a Blu-ray of Cohen & Tate.
Cohen & Tate is an amazing undiscovered gem from writer/director Eric Red. Fresh from the success of his scripts for Near Dark and The Hitcher, Red was given the chance to make his directorial debut and he chose a mostly self-contained character piece about two hitmen on the road to Houston with a child as their unwilling prisoner. The movie, shot nearly twenty-five years ago, didn’t get a wide distribution upon its initial release in 1989 and too many Houstonians – and film fans in general – have not heard of this movie and that’s a shame. A shame I plan to do my part to correct when we screen a 35mm print of Cohen & Tate on Sunday, July 14 at the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema – Vintage Park with Eric Red in attendance.
Roy Scheider and Adam Baldwin star in Cohen & Tate as the titular hitmen – two killers forced to work together despite the fact they pretty much hate one another. The movie does not spend too much time on backstory – choosing instead to deposit the audience right in the thick of the story. We don’t need to know why Cohen (Scheider) and Tate (Baldwin) were sent to snuff a family in witness protection – we just need to know that the men are dangerous in their own special way. Scheider and Baldwin’s performances more than sell this threat. Schedier plays against type as a cold, precise killer who has seen better days. His aim unsure and his hearing reliant on an aid, Cohen forms a bond with the child but – despite the grandfatherly approach he will occasionally take with the boy – Cohen knows it is his duty to deliver the boy to his death and will do everything in his power to fulfill his obligation. Tate, on the other hand, is standard-grade wild-as-piss Adam Baldwin – a hair-trigger temper and a fondness for his shotgun put him in direct contention with the calculating Cohen.
As the hitmen transport the child across Texas, though, it comes increasingly clear that the kid (played by Harley Cross) is more than capable of handling himself against the killers – psychologically if not physically. Cross plays the two killers’ weakness and emotions against each other, manipulating the two men in a last-ditch effort to survive the night. It all builds to an explosive finale deep in the heart of Houston – the McKinny exit off of I-45 to be exact.
Cohen & Tate is a strong film build on solid performances and I can’t thank Shout! Factory enough for putting out the Blu-ray and giving audiences another chance to discover Eric Red’s contribution to Houston’s cinematic legacy. Eric has graciously lent the Alamo Drafthouse his personal 35mm print of the film and is traveling back to Houston this weekend for the screening. He’ll stick around for a Q&A after the film. Tickets are $12 and can be purchased here.
Can’t make it out to Houston for the screening? Copies of the Blu-ray are available to purchase as of this week.