Film discussion

Tango & Cash (1989) – Throwback 30

Original US release date: 22nd December 1989. UK release date: 23rd March 1990.

Tango and Cash. Cash and Tango. One of the last movies of the 1980s (sharing the title with Spielberg’s Always), this film had a hell of a troubled production history. But before we take a look into the background, let’s talk about the film itself.

Sylvester Stallone plays Raymond Tango, THE BEST COP EVER on the west side of LA. He wears Armani suits, he’s always perfectly pressed and turned out for every occasion. He’s also not a fan of Rambo (we see what you did there, movie).  Kurt Russell plays Gabriel Cash, THE BEST COP EVER on the East side of LA. The two of them are regularly making high profile drug busts which are beginning to be something of an irritation for crime boss Yves Perret (Jack Palance in fine form, with only a little scenery-chewing in evidence here) as it’s his drugs they keep stealing. Now, if this film was made these days, or even in the last decade or so, the solution here would likely be the hiring of some nasty men with “a particular set of skills” to make the cops disappear, but this film was made in the 80s so a simple plan like that is right off the table. Just kill them? How BORING.

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Instead Perret comes up with an intricate scheme to frame the two for murder, which leads to them being sent to a maximum security prison, full of all the scum they’d taken down over the years who aren’t very happy about their presence. Please refrain from any Rorschach “You’re locked in here with me!” quotes, as the two are tortured and beaten up before eventually making their escape and plotting a way to get revenge and clear their names. Skipping ahead so as not to spoil too much of the plot, the movie ends in an orgy of explosions, armoured vehicles, witty one-liners and all the things that made the 80s such a brilliant time for action movie fans.

This film… this film is astoundingly silly, and yet it remains a somewhat overlooked gem of the buddy movie genre. Everyone thinks of Lethal Weapon, Men in Black, Bad Boys or the like, but this is a roller-coaster ride of a movie that deserves to still be seen and adored, filled with ludicrous weapons, silly dialogue, Kurt Russell in drag, and even a pair of shotgun cowboy boots. Hell, this is the movie that introduced me, in my tender teenage years, to the phrase “FUBAR” or “Fucked Up Beyond All Recognition” which still remains one of my favourite acronyms alongside “SNAFU” and “BOHICA“. I’ll let you folks look those ones up yourself, though.

The entire movie is filled with classic action movie one-liners and snappy banter, some of my personal favourites including –

Cash: You know, Potato Head, you just fell for the oldest routine in the book. Bad cop…
Tango: Worse cop!

And –

Tango: Do you think he’s telling the truth?
Cash: I don’t know. But it’s not raining and he’s standing in a puddle.

Or how about –

Interpreter: Detective Cash assaulted me. He put a chair on my chest and sat on it.
Cash: I couldn’t find a piano.

And so many, many, many more…

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As mentioned above, the film had something of a troubled path to the big screen, with disputes between producer and director; disputes about the ending, legal battles with the studio, constant studio interference with the final cut, budget overruns, and endless script rewrites plaguing it until the very end. But rather than it ending up like the also highly troubled and sadly maligned Alien 3, the end result is watchable and entertaining, genuinely good without needing to be “so bad it’s good”, and helped along by what seems to be a genuine chemistry between Stallone and Russell, with the two appearing to have a lot of fun in their scenes together.

If you have never seen Tango and Cash then all I can say is that you should do something about that. You can find it on DVD/BR/VOD for less than the cost of a cinema ticket and I guarantee you won’t regret watching it.

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