Tango & Cash

tn_tangoandcashI don’t know if you can sense it in the air or anything. It doesn’t really come until the end of the year, but this is the 20th anniversary of TANGO & CASH. To be honest I don’t think I ever saw this one before, but I wanted to see it and review it a little ahead of all the hoopla. As much as people like you and I are will to talk about TANGO & CASH all the time I’m sure eventually we’re gonna get a little worn out by all the retrospectives and parades and everything that I’m sure they’ve been planning.

So now I’ve seen it and I know TANGO & CASH is a fun but not all that great 1989 action movie that personifies (moviefies?) the excess of the ’80s, and not just because it has a monster truck in it.

mp_tangoandcashStallone plays Ray Tango, a neatly groomed supercop in a grey Armani suit and Roy Scheider glasses. He’s a wealthy stock trader who still works as a narcotics cop because he needs “the action.” Kind of the good guy version of Patrick Bateman. Meanwhile Kurt Russell plays Gabe Cash (you’d think the stock trader would be Cash, come to think of it), the sloppy t-shirt wearing, long-haired, cynical hero cop from another precinct on the other and totally different side of town. Both use Unorthodox Methods (playing chicken with a semi truck, choking information out of a prisoner who pretends he doesn’t speak English). Both are celebrities, sharing the front page of the newspaper in two different unrelated stories. They have alot in common and I don’t want to give anything away but there is a slim possibility that they just might hate each other but be forced to work together through extraordinary circumstances and then slowly but surely bond and help each other and gain each other’s begrudging respect but then continue to bust each other’s balls while giving each other the manly smile of secret friendship.

The villain, played by Jack Palance, wears a white suit, spends most of the movie in a board room and calls his weapons and drugs outfit a “multibillion dollar business.” He knows all about Tango and Cash and often talks about them by their full names or as Tango and Cash, never as Cash and Tango, even though at first they’re not even friends or colleagues, they only know each other by reputation and don’t like each other at all. But I guess he is an all-knowing villain who can sense the title of the movie.

So he sets them up for the murder of an undercover cop, they go to prison, get out and come after him. It’s like RICOCHET meets THE ODD COUPLE.

The music is cheesy ’80s style keyboard and drum machines courtesy of Harold “Axel F Theme” Faltermeyer. The two leads are constantly joking, making little quips to each other, usually not very funny ones though. The tone of the movie just doesn’t ever gel, it’s constantly trying to be clever but only pulling it off every once in a while. It’s definitely closer to a serious action movie than a comedy but they try to go extra-wacky. For example, Kurt Russell dresses in drag to leave a club unseen by cops, then flirts bats his eyelashes at them like he’s Bugs Bunny or something. Also there’s a scene where Cash is getting a massage but from what is being said and from Tango’s vantage point it totally seems like he’s fuckin Teri Hatcher! Do you get it? Can you believe what a crazy misunderstanding just happened there? It’s like Three’s Company! If these jokes were really racist or homophobic they could sell them to Michael Bay.

I like seeing Stallone (or any action guy) trying to stretch it a little. But with that voice it’s a little hard to swallow. Honestly I don’t really buy him as Mr. Fancypants there, it’s worse than Steve McQueen in THE THOMAS CROWN AFFAIR. I don’t care if Stallone is rich in real life, the guy talks and he’s working class. Nice try though, and when he’s not talking he looks very convincing.

There are some pretty good action moments. I like when they have to jump onto a wire and slide down using their belts. This is also some of the better funny-dialogue in the movie when they discuss how electricity works.

There’s a pretty good selection of character actors in here. Philo Beddo’s pal Geoffrey Lewis is one of their captains (uncredited for some reason), Eddie Bunker is another captain, Clint Howard is Stallone’s cell mate, Michael J. Pollard is a weird inventor guy who works for the police department and therefore makes souped up vehicles and prototype weapons for Cash, Brion James is one of the bad guys (doing a really bad British accent)… you also got James Hong, Michael Jeter, Lewis Arquette, and an uncredited Billy Blanks (I didn’t notice it was him).

zdarMost memorable is Robert Z’Dar as an inmate who wants to kill Tango because he broke his jaw on the streets (“That jaw?” Cash asks). Z’Dar is a topic I don’t think we’ve ever discussed here. Holy shit. Have you seen this guy? He looks like they transplanted a dinosaur’s jawbone into him by mistake. He’s intimidating for all the traditional reasons but if you had him after you you just know you’d get distracted staring at that mother and then he’d bite your arm off or just give you a fatal chinbutt or something. He should just go by his last name so he sounds like an evil space dictator, because he’s earned it.

I should also note that Teri Hatcher is the female lead in the movie but she’s not that bad I guess.

One possible reason for the weirdly off feel of the movie is that the director was not a Hollywood guy. Starngely enough it was directed by Andrei Konchalovsky, the Russian director of UNCLE VANYA and SIBERIADE and co-writer of Andrei Tarkovsky’s ANDREI RUBLEV. And I imagine either he didn’t really know how to handle it or (equally or more likely) the Hollywood types kept second guessing him and fucking everything up. According to the usual internet sources Albert Magnoli, director of PURPLE RAIN, took over late in production. Stallone also fired original director of photography Barry Sonnenfeld (even though back then he seemed like a genius because of RAISING ARIZONA and all that), and the movie was supposedly rescued by LETHAL WEAPON editor and EXECUTIVE DECISION director Stuart Baird in the editing room.

I don’t know man, I guess I don’t really get it. It’s worth watching to see all these guys together, and especially the two stars, but it’s a little forced and has way too many winks at the audience. Okay, I get why it’s supposed to be funny when somebody mentions Rambo and Tango says “Rambo is a pussy,” but what about this part where they’re discussing breakfast pastries and he says “I hate Danish”? I had to read IMDb trivia to learn that line was supposed to be funny because he had recently been divorced from Brigitte Nielsen. So, uh, that is not really a joke that lasted 20 years in my opinion.

Still, it has something. Not sure what.

This entry was posted on Sunday, June 21st, 2009 at 4:06 pm and is filed under Action, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

36 Responses to “Tango & Cash”

  1. I was only 12 when I saw this and I STILL thought Stallone’s obvious attempt to break his typecasting was totally lame.

    Then a few years later I saw Stallone on Oprah doing the exact same schtick “out of character”, glasses, obviously pre-rehearsed and written by other people snappy one liners etc. Give it a rest, Sly. People like you for who you are and they GET that you arent really as dumb as Rambo. Sheesh.

  2. When talking to people about this movie I always get it mixed up with TURNER & HOOCH. I’m not sure which one I prefer.

  3. This is one of those movies I watched a lot when I was younger but it was never one of my favorites.

  4. I liked it as a kid, but after a recent rewatch I’ve realized how terrible the dialogue is. Its the same thing as in The Last Boyscout, where literally every single line of dialogue is supposed to be winking at the audience or jokey, and most of the jokes fall flat. And the tone is just so ludicrously out there, its almost like a comic-book universe or a speed-racer type of live-action cartoon with how crazy it plays everything. Still, I do love the RV with giant miniguns, but on the whole, it’s a pretty lame movie in retrospect.

  5. Z’dar! I just watched MANIAC COP II recently & was wondering whatever happened to “The Jaw”! I think you might have to write another book: Z’DOLOGY. I have a TANGO & CASH/COBRA double feature DVD & it’s one of my most prized possessions. I think it’s high time for these two to reunite for a sequel with Z-DAR as an evil mastermind cloned from the jaw bone of his original character who pits Tango against Cash in gladiatorial battle to save the life of Terri Hatcher! It could be called TANGO VS. CASH: THE WRATH OF Z-DAR.

  6. I can’t quite get enough of this movie. It’s kinda lame, but so is Over The Top and I love that movie as well.

    I like how Jack Pallance has an elaborate maze for his pet mouse for no reason other than to make some point about his arch nemisii. I wonder if he even takes care of his mouse? The maze looked pretty clean but I never noticed any food or water in that thing.

    Perhaps he just bought the maze so he could put a mouse in it and was planning on bringing it back to the maze store (or selling it as “gently used”) once he was rid of Tango and Cash for good but for obvious reasons couldn’t since it blew up with the rest of the building. *SPOILER*

    I like how Stallone’s character is a loose cannon as well. On first sight you would think that Russell is the loose cannon and Stallone is a by the book guy but I don’t remember what part of the book states that you should play chicken with a tractor-trailer and then shoot it to prove it’s filled with drugs.

    Back to Jack Pallance again and evil villians in general (if anyone reading this is an evil villian feel free to comment) Do they really pay that much attention to the papers to learn cops names? I would figure that if they had trouble with the law it would be more like, “Damn, got busted by the cops. That sucks.” as opposed to, “Detective So and So foiled me again!”

    Another thing I don’t quite get is why evil villians always have barrels of explosives outside their evil lair. Their henchmen always have guns, but I rarely see them use explosives, and if they do it’s never a sufficient quantity that would warrant them having random barrels of it laying around every ten feet.

    I would also suggest that if you can afford an elaborate maze for no reason, you probably have enough money to retire from your drug business or at the very least use what money you do have to start a legitimate business that’s less risky and you don’t have to kill people. This goes for real life drug dealers as well. If you sell drugs, have some cash, and are fortunate enough to not be in jail already, put that cash to work for you and open a restaurant or bar or something.

  7. caruso_stalker217

    June 22nd, 2009 at 1:28 am

    This movie is awesome. No, it doesn’t really work but it’s an interesting failure and entertaining as fuck. And Geoffrey Lewis is in it, so there you have it.

  8. Another quality blast from the past.

    It hasn’t aged well, but that doesn’t stop it being funny (not always intentionally). Guess that is what happens when they try to make a violent comedy (that isn’t called a ‘Black Comedy’ by critics)

    Worth a watch though if only for a very ‘fit’ Terri hatcher and the whole load of supporting characters the Vern discussed. Perhaps they thought they were making a rival piece to Lethal Weapon ? (Well maybe a companion to the bag of cheese that is LW4)

    Gotta love the boot gun though and the biggest Jaw this side of shark

  9. Oh god I remember this cheesy crap. My high school girlfriend LOVED this movie. I should have taken that as a sign.

    Isn’t this the one where they duct tape a grenade in some guy’s mouth while they question him?
    And where they chase Jack Palance into a maze of mirrors at the end, a horrible ripoff of Enter the Dragon?
    I always get Mike Pollard mixed up with Dominique Pinon. And sometimes Brad Dourif.

  10. Listen guys, it still has the most classic, goofy ending I’ve ever seen. FREEZE FRAME ON THE HIGH FIVE!

    Now they are truly friends.

  11. On the high five freeze frame newspaper, one of the headlines reads



  12. I’m currently on a classic-over-the-top-action roll. I’ve recently seen Dark Angel ( a.k.a. I Come in Peace and , here in Italy , “Non Conventional Weapon”….yeah , I wonder where the idea for that title comes from!) by Craig R. Baxley with Dolph Lundgren, Matthias Hues ( another interesting specimen !) and Michael J. Pollard as an informer called Boner ( he , obviously , has a gun pointed at his balls , in the movie). Then I’ve re-watched Maniac Cop and man , that jawbone is fucking scary! After that it was back to Dolph with Bridge of Dragons ( not very good and , unfortunately , directed by Isaac Florentine , for me his first lame movie) and with Men of War ( Last mission , here). Men of War is interesting because is a mercenary-on-a-mission movie and Dolph in the movie is called “Gunar” , almost like his name in The Expendables ,Gunnar Jensen. So you can sort of consider Men of War like a “prequel” to Expendables , or at the very least you can see Dolph playing a mercenary. Called Gunar. Plus Tiny Lister is in the movie( another interesting specimen !). Now , thanks to Vern , I know what I will re-watch next!!!!

  13. I think the funny with Palance’s character is that he’s the secret boss who really runs the city’s underworld, so when Tango and Cash finally meet him it’s for the first time and they have no idea who he is, so they’re kinda bemused at his behaviour.
    Also, the end of the opening tanker scene, with the bad guys braking so fast they smash through the windows and onto the road was taken from the Bus chase in Police Story. With the exception of Xena taking several HK flick fight scenes, I’m not aware of any other Hollywood production borrowing sequences as liberally as that.

  14. Stu : Every time I see that scene from Police Story ( or the ending fight of Dragons Forever), I feel pain !

  15. rainman: Yeah, you totally should have taken that as a sign. A sign your girlfriend was awesome! I assume you are now happily married to her?

    Stu: I heard that that scene was taken from POLICE STORY. I wish more Hollywood action scenes were ripped off from Hong Kong stuff. When I see haphazardly edited action scenes shot too close I often wonder how can it be that hard to just watch a bunch of Hong Kong movies and then do what they do.

    Until reading this review it didn’t even dawn on me that this was the 20th anniversary of TANGO & CASH. And ROAD HOUSE. What a great year 1989 was. Two of my favorite action films ever. I think I’m going to have to do a double feature and then complain about how they don’t make ’em like that anymore.

  16. Konchalovsky actually shares quite a lot about the stressful making process of this in his autobiographical book… as far as I remember most of the stories centered around producer Jon Peters’ (yes, same guy of Superman/giant spider fame) antics and his increasingly insane demands and crass behavior which eventually lead to quite a disastrous production… script written and rewritten as the movie was being shot, Hatcher being hired because of Peters having the hots for her despite terrible audition, stuff like that… Don’t really remember everything in detail, I read the book a long time ago, it wasn’t all that interesting apart from several really surreal conversations between Konchalovsky and Marlon Brando. Anyway, point is, that was the guy’s major disillusionment with Hollywood and the Peters-and-studio induced chaos he describes is quite scary. I think he got nothing but praise for Stallone though, seems Sly was the voice of reason on the shooting lot on more than one occasion.

    As for the truck stunt, I seem to recall reading that Stallone was buddies with Jackie Chan and the scene was discussed between them and intended as a homage or whatever. For a true Chan flick rip-off I think one should look no further than Bad Boys 2’s Hummer-through-shacks thing, forgot what the consensus was on that.

  17. One thing you didn’t mention was at that beginning of the film after Sly does the Police Story rip-off thing, Jack Pallance’s villain character just happens to be rolling past in a limo so he can give his first monologue. That was convenient.

    I’d say I was a fan of this movie. It’s not particularly “good”, certainly not from a screenwriting point of view, but it’s very easy to watch, and I have done a few times. It’s fun.

  18. Fun fact: Kurt Russell only got his part after Patrick Swayze quit the project.

    The movie that Swayze quit TANGO & CASH to do? ROADHOUSE.

  19. God bless the Swayz. If he hadn’t done the gentlemanly thing, the two most awesomest movies of 1989 wouldn’t have come to pass.

  20. Vern, would love to read an Over the Top write up.

  21. I think it’s great. It’s dumb but it knows it, and it works on the levels that it needs to work on – there’s great chemistry between the two leads. But British accent? That’s Australian or I’m a dingo.

  22. Speaking of The Swayze…

    Hey Vern, how about you finally brave up and review RED DAWN? I’m sure that pissed you off real good, but considering how the upcoming remake actually found a way to be even more fantasy than John Milius’ original*….Wolverines!

    Can’t wait for you to bring up how the Saddam Hussein capture Army squad was named after that movie, despite the fucking thick irony of U.S. being the Russians, and those friggin Insurgents the damn kids.

    *=Which I like. Sure some cheesy action filmatics and most of kids’ cast was teenie bopper opportunistic, The Swayze was f’n good.

  23. Not seen it but the tone sounds almost similar to Hudson Hawk. I’d be curious to know your opinion Vern, the film is pretty effin weird. On the commentary the director keeps trying to defend the film with “well yeah it’s all a parody of those big action films, so the one liners are meant to be silly”. But that doesn’t really excuse the film when it’s trying to be funny and falls falt (which is often). The tone is all over the place as well. I mean “should I rape them?” where the hell did that line come from?

  24. This movie is great. I love when the bad guy explains that he is going to frame Tango and Cash by taking two mice which he names Tango and Cash and putting them in a maze. It’s even more pointless than when Goldfinger showed everybody a huge photograph of Fort Knox, announced that he was going to rob Fort Knox, then had a model of Fort Know emerge from the ground, then used neither the photograph or model to explain anything any better.

    Later, when Tango and Cash are storming his fortress, the baddie starts licking the mice with erotic glee. That’s filmmaking.

  25. “the baddie starts licking the mice with erotic glee. That’s filmmaking.”

    That’s rather fascinating…Believe it or not!

    (oh WHAT? Nobody else here had used that gag up.)

  26. I feel stupid for not discussing the mice in the review. I obviously wasn’t striving for excellence very much on that review. But I’m glad you guys are here to bring up those important details when I drop the ball.

  27. nice stuff i was looking for this thanks for sharing

  28. I forgot it was Brion James as that hitman with the wnadering accent. If I remember correctly they also made him use every Britishy-Aussie expression in the book in like one line of dialgoue. Something like “You sodding teacupless wanking shagging bloody gits! Crikey! Bloody fucking hell, cricketpaddlequeensconesthatsnotaknifethatsaknifedudleymoore!”

    And the Beavis and Butt-Head style commentary Tango and Cahs provide to their own trial is pretty fucking great too.

    Shit, I need to watch this again. Good times.

  29. “They have alot in common and I don’t want to give anything away but there is a slim possibility that they just might hate each other but be forced to work together through extraordinary circumstances and then slowly but surely bond and help each other and gain each other’s begrudging respect but then continue to bust each other’s balls while giving each other the manly smile of secret friendship.”

    wow. i’m floored. hahaha.

    between this a Ford Fairlane you’ve been reviewing a good chunk of my gf’s favourite dumb action movies lately. been meaning to get around to both of them. guess i aughta try. at least they don’t hang a Koala in this one, as far as i remember.

  30. This is my favorite non-Rocky, non-Rambo Stallone movie ever. Vern, you should do a review for Lock-Up, the OTHER Stallone Escapes from Prison in 89 flick.

  31. Not to mention Tango and Cash never paid for all the property damage they did while escaping from custody and clearing their names. I also don’t think they filled out the proper forms when they requisitioned that giant death SUV. I understand that they’re hero cops and all, but should these dangerous loose cannons be treated as role models for our children?

    Also, buy more golf shirts.

  32. I also loved this movie. But I have a problem. In 1985, I was enrolled in College in Delaware, Goldey-Beacom. While there, I pledged a fraternity. We had 7 guys pledge, but at the end only two of us made it, Me and a guy named Steve Bitanga. Steve bears a resemblance to Stallone, black short hair, money, good build. I , on the other hand was bigger, had a mullet, and was a clown. Tango and Cash. Maybe coincidence that one year later a movie bearing our names came out……..I have always wanted to know where the idea came from……to no avail…..Thank you for the site..

  33. The Original... Paul

    June 1st, 2013 at 9:41 am

    How the fuck haven’t I added my support to this movie yet? It’s another one that I grew up with and it’s pretty freaking awesome. I, also, cannot quite forget the accent of the guy with the grenade in his mouth. I always assumed it was Canadian, but that’s probably way off target (I was pretty young when I saw this film first time)… it’s not New Zealand, Aussie, British, or any other English accent that I’ve come across.

  34. Re-watched this one last night. Lots of fun, dumb fun. Kurt Russell is really good in this movie imo. He pulls Sly more out of the weird yuppie stiff schtick he’s attempting, and helps the banter land more often than not. Rumor is that Swayze turned this one down. I’ve got to imagine this would be a very different, and probably worse movie, with Swayze cast instead of a Kurt.

    This struck me one of the movies that nails the action comedy balance, especially for this 80s period, far better than something like Last Action Hero a few years later. It’s a movie perfectly made for 17 year old boys. I’ll be looking forward to the 30th anniversary re-review in a couple years. :)

  35. whoops left out, Z-dar is clearly supposed to partly a send-up of Arnold, as Stallone at one points quips at the guy, “I loved you in Conan the Barbarian!” I’ve heard some people claim Arnold had plastic surgery work done on his jaw in the 80s, so maybe that’s part of the gag with “that jaw”?

  36. It always bothered me that in this supposedly High Security prison they let the inmates wear belts! And also have late night electro shock fight clubs.

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