Review: Tango & Cash
Sly Stallone and Kurt Russell play the two title narcotics cops, both headline-seekers with wildly different methods and personalities. Stallone is well-dressed, looking like a stockbroker and acting somewhat of a square, whilst Russell is more of a reckless slob who thinks Stallone’s a prissy pencil-pusher and not a real cop. The competitive cops are forced to form an alliance when they are framed for murder by a trio of heavies (Jack Palance, Marc Alaimo, and James Hong) who have a vendetta against the crime-busters (who have never worked together before, by the way). Convicted of the crime they must break out of prison, which is no easy task when they’re faced with a lot of the criminals they personally helped put away, like hulking Robert Z’dar. They must work out who stiffed them, seek revenge, and restore their somewhat good names. Teri Hatcher plays Stallone’s exotic dancer sister, whom Russell has eyes on, Geoffrey Lewis plays a police chief, Clint Howard plays an inmate, whilst Michael J. Pollard plays a none-too-proficient weapons specialist, and Brion James is a hulking cockney thug.
I was a bit more entertained by this buddy cop flick from Andrei Konchalovsky (who directed the OK but overrated “Runaway Train”) in 2018 than when I first saw it around the time of its original release in 1989. I hated it back then, and back then I had far lesser standards, believe me. However, there is little doubt in my mind that the two stars have been thrown an inferior script (seriously, it’s barely B-level and I could see it starring Michael Paré and David Keith or Gary Busey easily) and sluggish direction doesn’t help. It’s less than 100 minutes long, but feels much longer.
A relatively relaxed Stallone and especially the always likeable Russell are fun, as are the inimitable Pollard (as a low-rent Q), Z’dar (whose enormous chin deserves its own billing if you ask me) and James (dodgy cockney accent and all, he’s a really intimidating henchman) in small roles. Unfortunately the film does absolutely nothing with its trio of main villains, especially Hong, who could’ve easily played off his rivalry with Russell from “Big Trouble in Little China”, but ends up with nothing to do at all. Palance’s crime lord is given the most time of the trio, and if you’re a fan of his work in “Batman”, you’ll enjoy him here, as it’s the same damn performance. Some of it is amusing in a juvenile kind of way (Russell has no problem getting a little goofy, and in this case, even dressing in drag), and the cast is certainly eclectic, but the rather ridiculous prison stretch bogs things down considerably (though Z’dar and Clint Howard are fun). I just didn’t buy Palance and co turning up at the prison, though it does involve one of the more interesting torture scenes I’ve come across, I’ll give it that.
Pretty bland and formulaic, certainly not among the top echelon of buddy cop movies (“Lethal Weapon”, “48HRS”, “Beverly Hills Cop”), though it’s not at the bottom, either (“City Heat”, “The Rookie”, “Bad Boys II”). I’ve heard it was a troubled shoot, with principal photography commencing without a complete script, various firings, re-editing, overblown budget etc. It certainly shows, but it could’ve been a lot worse. It might’ve at least been funnier if they cast someone who is the polar opposite of Stallone/Russell as an actor, rather than cast someone to play a character the polar opposite of the character the other one is playing. What I mean is, both stars are fun, but look at “Lethal Weapon” and “48 HRS”, for example. The two characters in both of those movies are total opposites from each other (Unstable Riggs vs. family man veteran cop Murtagh, for instance), played by actors who are pretty damn different from one another, too (Gibson vs. Glover, Nolte vs. Murphy). Russell and Stallone aren’t exactly alike (and Russell is a pretty versatile actor), and certainly their characters are different, but the actors aren’t polar opposites, either.
However, at the end of the day the director (who was fired before the film was complete, because the studio wanted someone with a lighter touch) and the screenplay by Randy Feldman (“Nowhere to Run” and the equally mediocre “Metro”), are mostly to blame for this film not being what it could’ve. The film could’ve and should’ve worked a lot more action into the story, at the very least. As is, it’s watchable, but not nearly as much fun as it should’ve been given the talent in front of the camera.