Action Heroes – Stallone: Tango & Cash

I was very excited when I was handed Tango and Cash to review.  It was one of the films we used to have on VHS back in my youth – recorded off the telly late one Friday night thanks to timer record or more likely an older brother who was willing to stay up for such things.  I must have watched it about 50 times when I was growing up, probably not really understanding it, obviously missing the homoeroticism but secretly loving Kurt Russell and his oh-so-80’s mullet.

Like a lot of the slightly questionable movies in the King family VHS collection, it never made the cut when I switched over to DVDs and so it had been about 15 years since I had seen this film. Re-watching I was surprised by both how much I remembered and how my mother could ever have let her pre-teen daughter watch a movie so riddled with swearing and violence.  I think this actually explains a lot about the type of person I’ve become.  But enough about my psyche, let’s talk about the film.

Ray Tango (Stallone) and Gabriel Cash (Russell) are the two highest profile cops in LA fighting the war on drugs.    In typical cop/action movie fashion they’re loners, with different styles but the same attitude (namely arrogance and a flagrant disrespect for their superiors). Tango is a suit wearing square, pushing the glasses up the bridge of his nose and checking how the markets are doing.  Cash is a jeans and blood splattered T-shirt kinda guy, with a crappy diet and an apartment in a bad part of town. Classic chalk-and-cheese stuff.

Unsurprisingly, they hate each other and are locked in a battle of one-upmanship to claim the biggest collar and be LA’s number one cop.  This gets derailed in spectacular fashion as their high profile antics bring them to the attention of Jack Palance’s drug King-Pin who duly fits them up on a bogus drug dealing and murder rap.  He wants them off the streets, but savy old geezer that he is, understands that you can’t just kill the LAPD’s two most prominent officers without igniting a war with the police.  His plan to discredit and fit them up for murder is a brilliant one indeed.

Tango and Cash go on trial together and in the face of insurmountable (but obviously faked) evidence, cop a plea to 18 months in a minimum security facility. Naturally, things don’t go according to plan and Palance’s money and influence easily reach into the prison service and so our heroes are instead taken to maximum security and put in Gen-Pop amongst many of the men they’ve put away during their time in the LAPD.

There are plenty of reasons of love this film; the 1980s soundtrack, fashions and hair, but for me it all boils down to the scenes in the prison.  Firstly you get the shower scene, during which both men comment on each other’s <ahem> manhood and then half joke about blowing each other “Don’t flatter yourself Pee-Wee”.  They want each other, you can just tell.   Then you get the wise cracks as they walk to their cells in Gen-Pop and the inmates throw flaming toilet paper and abuse at them; “You know what I really hate?  Litter”.  Oh Cash, you old wag!

Once in Gen-Pop they realise they won’t last long, and as ever they’re right.  They’re taken that very night for a spot of torture in the prison laundry room.  The guards it seems are for sale and are happy to turn a blind eye as our boys, shirtless and suspended from the ceiling are slowly dipped into vats of water with an electric current running through it.  Oh how they cry for each other, its love, I’m telling you. We also hear the first use of the phrase FUBAR (Fucked Up Beyond All Recognition), a phrase that I use to this very day to describe a bad hangover.

After an evening of torture our heroes decide that their only option is to mount an escape.  Now, I’ve recently watched Prison Break and it took Michael Scofield a whole season and a lot of body art to break out of Fox River, yet somehow Tango and Cash manage to escape their maximum security prison in two days, with minimal planning, no digging and certainly no tattoos.  Once out our boys go their separate ways to try and prove their innocence, but Tango clearly can’t stand the though of being parted from his love and so tells Cash that if he ever needs him, to go Cleopatra’s and find someone called Catherine. 

Catherine is Tango’s younger sister, played by Teri Hatcher.  What’s odd about watching Teri Hatcher in this film is just how young and beautiful she used to be.  If you’ve only ever seen her in Desperate Housewives you’ll be shocked when you compare the emaciated, heavily botoxed face and body you know, to the buxom, youthful nymphet here, performing what can only be described as the tamest striptease in the history of cinema. It’s a shame but I guess age gets us all in the end.  Thinking about it Stallone hasn’t aged so well either, when you compare him in this film to his bloated, botoxed, collagened face in The Expendables.

Anyway, Cash does in the end go and find Catherine and after some light cross-dressing reunites with his first love Tango.  Once back together there is some tension and jealousy as it’s clear that Cash is going to bonk Catherine (I assume this is because being an 80s’ movie, he can’t have her brother so he’ll settle for second best) and Tango is not to happy about this.  The movie makers would like you to believe that this is because Tango is protective of his sister, when it’s clear to everyone that the real reason is that he wants Cash for himself. 
From here on, it turns into your stock action movie.  Catherine is kidnapped by the baddie and our boys go in to save her.  Cue explosions, gun fights, fist fights and those all important action movie one liners: “You look a little anaemic.  You need a little <cocks gun> iron in your diet.”  It’s all very silly fun and requires very little thought on the part, in fact I would recommend that you do switch off your brain and just enjoy the ride. In the end our boys save the day and reconcile their differences with a freeze-frame high-five, and we can only assume, a post credit bunk-up.

Suzanne King

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