Tango (Stallone) and Cash (Russell) are two on-the-level cops who are framed by crimelord Jack Palance and forced to do time in a prison where most of the inmates are their lock-ups. A tight spot, out of which only hokey one-liners and greased biceps might find a way out of...
Reprising the near-farcical pitch of Lethal Weapon 2, Tango & Cash is another mismatched-cop-buddy-movie that throws smartly dressed, bespectacled Ray Tango (Stallone) together with the long-haired gung-ho Gabe Cash (Russell) when the pair of them are framed for murder.
Sporting his much-touted "new look", the normally monosyllabic Stallone, while not exactly crackling with wit, at least here displays a modest grasp of comic timing. The laughs, however, are far from subtle. Ever since Dirty Harry first advised the punk to make his day, these kind of movies have hinged on lippy one-liners and smart-assed exchanges, and Tango & Cash is no exception. You know the sort of thing: "Who do you think you are Tango, Rambo?" "Rambo's a pussy". "Where did you learn to drive?" "From Stevie Wonder". "Is he telling the truth?" "I don't know, but there's a puddle on the ground and it isn't raining". And when they run out of original lines, they simply steal them from other movies. (Tango's question "Did you bump uglies with my sister?" is one of Ed Harris' more memorable lines in Sweet Dreams.)
The plot is pure comic strip hokum: pitting the LAPD's finest, "Tango and Cash", against arch-villain Jack Palance, who is fed up with the "downtown clown and Beverly Hills yuppie" frequently busting his gun-running and drugs operations. Caught "red-handed" (i.e. set-up) by the Feds with drugs, money, a dead body and a falsified tape-recording attesting their guilt, the pair are forced to accept an 18-month sentence in an open prison. Instead they find themselves inside a maximum security jail, half of whose inmates were incarcerated by - yes! - Tango and Cash.
Keeping the tension high as it thunders through prison drama, escape drama, and a race-against-the clock finale, this is a fairly enjoyable rollercoaster ride, with the accent firmly on sleek action sequences. Stallone and Russell work well together, and both get a chance to display their bulging biceps. Sly's are bigger and he still has that dropped-shoulder-no-neck look, so prized by bodybuilding enthusiasts.
Despite its unusual pedigree Guber and Peters teamed up with Soviet-born director Konchalovsky, who worked with Tarkovsky before moving to the States and clocking up a mixed bag of screen credits Tango & Cash is played strictly to formula. Laughs, thrills and spills with the usual macho bonding, in another thrilling instalment of the eternal fight between good and evil.
Stallone and Russell play well off each other, and with Palance lurking in the background, this buddy-breakout never loses its way.