Following the popularity of 48 Hrsand Lethal Weapon, buddy cop films were all the rage in the late 80’s and early 90’s. We had the black buddy cop movie in Bad Boys, the human and alien buddy cop in Alien Nation, the human cop and police dog movie in K-9, the FBI buddy cop film in Point Break (also young guy and old guy as well as cop and surfer), supercop and actor in The Hard Wayand lots of others.
Then there’s Tango & Cash in which one supercop is teamed with another supercop. Sylvester Stallone plays supercop Ray Tango, bearing spectacles and wearing a suit, while Kurt Russell plays supercop Gabriel Cash, with a mullet but no suit.
Tango & Cash was, at least partially, an attempt to revitalise the career of one Sylvester Stallone as his last few films, such as Over the Top, Cobra and Rambo III, had disappointed at the box office. He was originally supposed to be teamed with Patrick Swayze but he had to bow out for some reason so instead Kurt Russell was brought in. The making of this movie was quite troublesome, aside from changing one of the leads original director Andrei Konchalovsky was fired during filming and someone named Albert Magnoli was hired to replace him and finish the film. Stallone seems to have been the one really calling the shots here as he also had Director of Photography Barry Sonnenfeld (!!!) fired because he felt he wasn’t being “lit to satisfaction,” and had a big hand in the screenplay even though he isn’t credited. There were also troubles in the editing room and Stuart Baird was apparently hired to “save” the movie there.
While the film did make more money than his las few films it was considered a disappointment at the box office, making a not-so-hot $63 million at the U.S. box office with a budget of over 50 million (which was a *lot* back in ‘89, kind of like $200 million now). The critics were not kind to it and it’s not as well-remembered today as, say, the Lethal Weapon series.
But for my money this is possibly the most enjoyable buddy cop movie of them all.
In the classical, objective kind of way Tango & Cash is a terrible movie. It’s got a nonsensical plot, it’s kind of homophobic and racist, it really never makes sense or is believable for a minute and everything is ridiculously clichéd. But all these elements are partly what make this movie so awesome. The movie is so absurd in every wat it’s really impossible to take it seriously for a minute and it seems to be at least semi-aware of it’s own absurdity. At the very least it’s funny as shit.
The teaming of Sylvester Stallone and Kurt Russell is really just an inspired bit of casting, even though it was probably just a last minute idea, and they make a wonderful couple… er… team, bouncing off each other quite nicely. Tango & Cash has a touch of homophobia to it but it’s also incredibly homoerotic, the whole movie seemingly oozes of homoeroticism. Just take a look at these dialogue exchanges:
Cash: This has got to be a mistake. What do you think?
Tango: I think my underwear is riding into my throat.
Cash: Nice to see your underwear problem is solved.
Tango: I noticed. And Cash? You can stop holding your stomach.
Tango: Pleasure doing time with ya.
Cash: Yeah, I’ll never forget that time in the shower.
Tango: What are you doing? What are you doing?
Cash: Relax. Soap. And don’t flatter yourself… Peewee.
Tango: Here. (Hands Cash a gun)
Cash: Aw, c’mon, how come yours is bigger than mine?
Tango: Genetics, Peewee.
In fact it seems like every other line of dialogue in this movie is either something homoerotic or a wonderfully silly one-liner like Stallone saying “Rambo… is a pussy” just before he shoots something or Russell putting a grenade down a bad guy’s pants and then saying “My contribution to birth control,” however that makes sense.
Stallone’s performance is clearly one of his most humorous ones, and really one of his best, and Russell just does thing and is charming as always. But this film also has an interesting supporting cast. We’ve got the late Jack Palance giving a awesomely hammy performance as the main bad guy, the late Brion James as his henchman who speaks with a cockney accent for some reason, and the always wonderful Michael J. Pollard as a goofy “Q” type tech geek who makes a supercar for the supercops. And last, but not least, is a young Teri Hatcher playing Stallone’s younger sister (!), a stripper named Kiki Tango!
There’s really no way to get very deep about this movie as it’s not really very deep in any way. The homoerotic subtext is all there on the surface and the whole thing is basically just a cobbled together mishmash of clichés, silly one-liners and macho posturing and it’s all very 80s. This is movie is very clearly a relic of the 80s, a movie this blatantly homoerotic and cheesy would hardly get made today, would it? Then again, maybe what the world needs now is a revival of tacky 80s actioners. Lockout seems to be a step in the right direction and there’s of course The Expendables. Might I suggest, Tango & Cash 2? The world needs it!
And finally, here’s one scene for your viewing pleasure: