Tango & Cash

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Grimly predictable but mindlessly enjoyable, Tango & Cash limps onto the screen like a mangy dog. It has no pedigree whatsoever, but the ugly old mutt still manages to put a smile on my face.

Perhaps the most pleasing thing about the whole enterprise is its fidelity to tired buddy cop clichés. Here we have two detectives who are forced to team up in order to defeat a common foe. Will they get on? Will they grow to like one another? Will they get the bad guy? What the hell do you think?

The bad guy here is a mentalist called Perret (played by Jack Palance). He likes to sell drugs and is pissed off that Tango and Cash are doing such a good job of cleaning up the streets. Therefore he decides to conceive of a plan where the cops are framed for a crime they didn’t commit.

Now framing the cops seems to me like a bit of a pain in the arse. Why go to all that effort when you can just kill them? Well, Perret, being the mental giant he is, has already thought of that. You see, killing them will make them martyrs. Better to disgrace them and have them put away for a few years. That way their reputations get tarnished and maybe someone can kill them in prison. The perfect plan.

The first part of the plan is pulled off with ruthless efficiency. Tango and Cash, working separately, get tip offs about a drug deal. However, when they arrive they find a dead man. And before they can do a thing, cops arrive and arrest them (the dead man is a Federal Agent). Wow, that was easy.

And the trial is just as easy. A planted murder weapon and an obviously fake tape recording are apparently enough to have the best cops in the city convicted. I love it when a plan comes together.

Too bad, though, for Perret that he’s dealing with the awesome power of Tango and Cash. They will not stand for this shit.

Tango is played by Sylvester Stallone. He’s well dressed, has lots of money and is apparently only a cop for the excitement. He’s the sort of guy that will stand in front of a huge juggernaut, shoot at the driver, have the driver stop and then deliver a killer quip as the driver shoots through the window from braking so hard – ‘Glad you could drop in’. He’ll then face up to some idiot local cop and find the drugs that no one else can find by just randomly shooting at stuff. He’s quite a guy. Oh, and he also thinks that Rambo is a pussy. Well, Tango can’t be right about everything.

Cash is played by Kurt Russell. He’s the scruff to Tango’s smooth. The Chevy to Tango’s Mercedes. The Vegemite to Tango’s Marmite. He’s the sort of guy who will look at a mirror and admire his beautificious mullet before being attacked by an Asian who comes rampaging through the reflective surface. He’s also the sort of guy who will torture the said Asian and will make him speak English even though the lying bastard claimed he couldn’t. In other words, packaging aside, he’s exactly the same as the suited Tango. He’s a cop who doesn’t play by the rules and who gets results, dammit.

Initially, Tango and Cash don’t like each other much. Both think they’re the best cop in the city and each antagonises the other. However, pretty soon it’s clear they’re in love.

As with all the best romances, the love begins in prison. No sooner do they walk through the gate than they get in the shower together. And no sooner do they get in the shower than they begin checking each other out and start making cock jokes. And Stallone almost jumps out of his skin when Russell goes to pick up the soap. Stallone makes out that his reaction is borne of fear, but it’s clear it’s out of nervous excitement. And Russell’s attempts to play hard to get are pathetic. He says that Stallone shouldn’t flatter himself. It’s the trademark reaction of a jilted lover – he doesn’t want Stallone to know that he desperately wants to have his ass cheeks spread.

In another scene, Russell dresses up in drag. Supposedly he does it in order to evade capture, but he’s clearly playing out a deep seated fantasy. And then later, Stallone catches Russell getting up to hanky panky with Stallone’s sister while still wearing a dress. Russell is clearly trying to make Stallone’s character jealous. And Stallone falls for it hook, line and sinker. He tries to make out that he’s concerned about his sister ending up with a prick like Cash, but really he wants a piece of the action himself.

One of my favourite scenes is when Tango and Cash get electrocuted in prison. They’re confronted by about fifty guys (guys they put away) and they’re strung up. They’re then lowered into water and electrocuted. It’s kind of a rip off of the scene in Lethal Weapon, but Stallone and Russell’s reactions are hilarious. They overact a treat. And the scene is made extra funny by the way that Jack Palance’s character turns up out of nowhere so that he can watch the torture. I guess he must have friends in the prison. And then when some guards arrive and break things up, Palance slinks back into the shadows without being seen. Does he have keys? Does he know every guard? His escape from within a prison seems awful easy.

But then Palance’s character is a hoot from beginning to end. He portrays a supervillian who likes to play games. For example, one of his favourite things is playing with mice. He likes to put them in mazes and cackles when they can’t get out. He also has lots of monster trucks in his backyard and has a massive off-road course. In fact, he’s more like a Bond villain than anything else.

Speaking of Bond, there’s also a blatant Q rip-off. He works for the police and creates all kinds of crazy gadgets, one of which is a stuffed dog that shoots bullets. However, better than this he creates a super-vehicle…out of an RV. You know, James Bond gets an Aston Martin and Tango and Cash get a crappy RV with a mini-gun on the side. Sounds fair, doesn’t it?

The fact that the film descends into Bond-type super-villainy shows the paucity of ideas contained within. But it also makes for terrifically bad cinema. A car chase with a shitty RV and some monster trucks? A final confrontation with a wall of mirrors (haven’t seen that before!)? Excellent.

I also have to mention that Palance’s henchman is an Englishman. But the guy who plays him is from California. Therefore we’re assaulted with a cod-cockney accent and lots of mangled Englishisms. It should be offensive to my eardrums, but it ends up being hilarious. ‘Piss awff! Bollocks to plan A.’ ‘You fackin’ wanka!’ And in response to shit like this, Russell gets to utter one of the best lines. ‘I don’t want to be killed by this Limey immigrant jerk-off. I want to be killed by an American…jerk-off.’ Wonderful stuff.

One of the conventions of the 80s cop film is that it must include strippers. And Tango & Cash is no different in this regard. However, in this film, the stripper is Tango’s sister and she’s played by Teri Hatcher. But seeing as she’s a classy broad who doesn’t just make a living out of getting her tits out, her act consists of her drumming on an electric drum kit in a sparkly bikini. Quite why anyone would pay to see this act, I don’t know. If I went to a strip bar and didn’t see breasts, I’d be incredibly disappointed. I would be even more disappointed if the act included pretentious drumming.

At the end, Tango allows Cash to date his sister, but the final image is of Tango and Cash standing there holding hands. Yes, L.A.’s two best cops are finally united. United in work and united in love.

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