Just when you thought Sylvester Stallone had exhausted soft drink product placement in Cobra, he returns as a cop called Ray Tango. Along with Kurt Russell’s Gabe Cash, he’s framed, imprisoned and ready for payback. So essentially a non-sci-fi version of Judge Dredd. Though any world in which Sly Stallone is a detective can’t help but feel vaguely dystopian.
That picture, from the DVD cover, makes it look like a serious thriller. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Tango & Cash is an ’80s action film; dumb, fun, over the top…. like I said, an ’80s action film. Maybe this is what Calvin Harris was talking about when he said: “It was acceptable in the 80s.” Like many of its contemporaries, the film combines strong violence with goofy jokes, resulting in a jumbled mess of assault weapons, exotic dancers and monster trucks.
I haven’t really mentioned the plot, because the film never concerns itself with such trivial matters. Jack Palance plays some sort of crime boss, intent on destroying LA’s toughest cops. For reasons known only to him, he chooses not to kill them, but to have them sent to the worst-guarded jail since the prison lorry from X-Men: The Last Stand. Our trigger-happy heroes then embark on a revenge spree to prove their innocence, but leave a trail of destruction that virtually guarantees their being immediately thrown back in jail for the safety of LA and migraine-prone cinema-goers.
There is, however, a certain amount of fun to be had in the company of Stallone and Russell, who appear to be competing for a Razzie. Presumably named after a convenience store, Tango and Cash are meant to be diametrically opposed characters, in the buddy cop tradition; Tango’s the smart one, Cash is casual. Unfortunately, Stallone’s attempts to seem smart begin and end with his wearing glasses. So all that differentiates them is their clothes. Their characteristics are identical. If you count big machine guns as characteristics.
They both remain resolutely breezy in any situation, whether reading a newspaper or being tortured, which isn’t great in terms of tension. But it does make for some enjoyably quotable moments, such as Stallone’s garbled threat: “You’re looking terribly anaemic. I think what you need is a little (*cocks gun*) iron in your diet.” Throw in a horrible score, Kurt Russell in drag and the most ’80s final shot in the history of final shots, and what do you get? Tango & Cash; only watchable if you want a little (*cocks gun*) irony in your diet.