Cohen & Tate [Blu-Ray] Eric Red

Cohen & Tate [Blu-Ray] Eric Red
5
As was the standard for genre cinema in the late '80s, Cohen & Tate posits a family in crisis. Pre-teen Travis Knight (Harley Cross) witnesses a mob-related murder, forcing him and his parents into witness protection, where they are limited to a sparsely decorated rural home surrounded by armed guards. Their terror is the anarchic and reckless unknown — a force external to the sanctity and safety of the nuclear family and the social order it presumably requires to flourish. But where this modestly budgeted road-trip thriller diverts from traditionalist affirmations of the status quo superiority of the time is in its limited assurances and flippant, youthful irreverence, featuring a bout of graphic violence during the opening moments that leaves both parents dead and Travis in the back seat of a car belonging to two henchmen. Logically, Travis, being recently orphaned, should recede into shock and blubbering submission, but director Eric Red, who penned a couple of early, pre-third-wave feminism scripts for Kathryn Bigelow (Near Dark and Blue Steel), seeks to empower the victim. Rather than acquiesce to the inevitably likelihood of being beaten and killed, Travis exploits the inherent male ego imbalance between the calm, smooth, sociopathic Cohen (Roy Scheider) and the irrational, bloodthirsty Tate (Adam Baldwin), placing seeds of distrust in their dialogue and playing off their differences in opinion. It's a ridiculous assertion, existing as an ideated fantasy projection of childhood trauma, but the unwitting existential metaphor — brains over brawn and base independent survival in a seemingly meaningless world — does keep Cohen & Tate on point for its time. That the dialogue is often cheesy and the conflict, or action, peppered throughout is entirely inorganic and illogical (every police officer depicted is a bumbling nincompoop) are almost expected. All authority figures are unreliable ciphers existing to reiterate the hyperbolized worldly disappointments of Travis, just as the cartoonish portrayal of villainous forces represents the lack of control associated with social progress and change. This is a transparent, almost petulant male fantasy through and through, empowering a boy that should otherwise be relegated to the periphery of society. In the supplemental materials — interviews and a commentary — the performances of Scheider and Baldwin are the focus, with everyone agreeing that Baldwin is unrealistic and absurdist, while Scheider is effortlessly cool and complex. Of course, said complexity boils down to a single scene where Cohen throws an envelope in the mail, realizing the likelihood of his impending death, which makes the gravity with which he and the film are revered in these supplements quite amusing. No one has any interest in analyzing the text or distinguishing its cultural relevance, which makes sense seeing as its unlikely there was a great deal of self-consciousness about the associated anxieties this story represents. Through social change comes reactive behaviour and defensiveness from those that had implicit power; or, more succinctly, it's hard for people to share when they've spent their lives getting everything they want. (Shout! Factory)