The JOE-DOWN Reviews ‘Tango & Cash’

Welcome to the JOE-DOWN, a back-and-forth movie review blog by two snarky newspapermen named Joe from Minnesota, Joe Froemming and Joe Brown. We will take turns selecting a movie — any movie we want — and review it here. For this installment, Froemming picked “Tango & Cash.”

The info:

The Movie: “Tango & Cash”

Starring: Sylvester Stallone, Kurt Russell, Teri Hatcher

Director: Andrey Konchalovskiy (as Andrei Konchalovsky), Albert Magnoli (uncredited)

Plot Summary: (From IMDB) Framed by their ruthless arch-nemesis, a mismatched LAPD crime-fighting duo has to put its differences aside to even the score with the evil kingpin who put them behind bars once and for all.

Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 30 percent

Our take:

Froemming: OK, we had our fun the past few weeks with the Death of Michael Cera and a bunch of Pallies. This week, Brown and I return to our bread and butter: Dumb. 1980s. Action. Movies.

And I decided to go with one I have never seen. A movie that teamed up two titans of the era: Sylvester Stallone and Kurt Russell. And boy, was this movie a confusing mess that tried to make us believe Stallone was some sort of stock market genius who dressed like 1990s WWF superstar Irwin R. Schyster. Russell as a slobby, cocky cop? Well, that was just perfect casting.

Brown, as I prepare my NewsMax-style rantings on British people like Cash in this, why don’t you give us your first thoughts?

Brown: As soon as you said we were reviewing “Tango & Cash,” I kept thinking of the time Kyle quit Tenacious D. 

So yeah, I had Tenacious D stuck in my head all week, which all things considered isn’t a bad thing. 

This is also a movie I never saw. I think I had first heard about it on one of those “I Love the 80s” specials on VH1 that were all the rage when I was in high school and even then, thought the idea of Sly being the uptight yuppie was a gigantic stretch, like sweatpants on Andre the Giant. 

Kurt Russell, it’s pretty much every character he’s been in every movie. Maybe not as sullen as Snake Plissken, but he absolutely uses a Snake Plissken gun in this flick.

So Froemming, get us started while I hunt down a dude with a ponytail in a drug den.

Froemming: Well, it starts off with us hearing Stallone saying “Let’s do it” which I feel Marc Maron stole with his “Lock the gates” thing for his WTF podcast. And then we see Sly chasing a semi on a desert road that looked like it was used for every hair metal music video in the ’80s. 

Brown: I wrote in my notes that it looked straight out of the “Enter Sandman” video. Plus, with the movie opening with a semi truck, I thought this was a direct sequel to “Over the Top.” 

Froemming: And this is when I realized this movie was going off the rails. Because Lieutenant Raymond “Ray” Tango pulls ahead of the truck, outside his jurisdiction we hear, gets out and takes the (REDACTED) thing down with his handgun. The damn semi actually stops within inches of him and the two baddies fly out the windshield, a cautionary tale about always wearing seatbelts I think. 

Then, as the other cops show up, we get cringe-worthy meta humor as they crack Rambo jokes to Tango.

Brown: What was more jarring? The reference by the cops to Rambo or having Ray Tango, played by Sly Stallone, saying “Rambo is a pussy?”

Froemming: Both. The answer is both.

Brown: And this is a good time to state what I think is the biggest flaw of this movie: Ray Tango is meant to be a buttoned-up straight man to Gabe Cash’s lunacy.

The problem is, Sly Stallone is never going to be a typical straight man. He’s still dishing out one-liners and getting into crazy action sequences like Cash does throughout the movie, but we’re supposed to believe they’re different characters because Tango wears three-piece suits and invests in the stock market?

Froemming: And glasses, he wears glasses to show he is a smart nerd. And, much like Rick Perry, it doesn’t hide his idiocy at all. Even a dolt like Trump saw through that.

Brown: You know all the stories that came out during the “Fast and Furious” movies where The Rock and Vin Diesel had it in their contracts that they can’t lose fights? I feel the same vibe with this movie where Stallone was never going to be a nerd. Instead of being opposites like most buddy cop movies, this is basically badass cop 1A and 1B. 

Froemming: I believe they actually call it in this movie (literally) bad cop/worse cop.

Anywho, Tango finds the drugs in this semi by shooting the gas tank, which is something real smart people with glasses would probably not do. And then, we newspaper headlines talking about how Tango saved the day. These L.A. newspapers use Tango and Cash on a familiar name basis in headlines, something I have never seen in my 10+ years in print journalism.

Brown: Also, exclamation points in the newspaper headlines. Knock that shit off, movie.

Froemming: Tango is above the fold, and below we see a headline for old Cash, which is odd since these two cops are in different jurisdictions and L.A. is a pretty huge metropolis. You’d think the local crime busts would not be on (REDACTED) A1, photos of Tango and Cash and all.

Brown: While we see Tango as the bulkiest yuppie in history, Cash is more a man of the people. Kids are running after him after he pulls into his dirty apartment complex as the movie plays its weird soundtrack not unlike the music to “Toejam and Earl” on the Sega Genesis. 

Froemming: That was one of my all-time favorite games. 

Also, Cash has this nice midlife-crisis car and lives in an apartment that is more rundown and creepy than the one I had in college that Brown once said was “kinda rapey.” 

Brown: There’s something about flickering lights outside an apartment that’s real creepy, man. Not blaming you; the maintenance man should have been all over that. 

Anyways, when Cash starts admiring himself in the mirror, it shatters and there’s a hitman behind all that glass. Cash gets shot (turns out he has a bulletproof vest on when he’s off duty?) and also has a shotgun built into his cowboy boot because this movie needs a James Bond-like pull? 

My reaction to that.

This all leads to a car chase in a parking ramp that involves thousands of dollars in collateral damage, gratuitous nudity as a couple is seen having sex in the back of a car AND some weird Cold War humor when, after Cash appropriates a Russian man’s car, the guy yells about his crushed automobile and how he believes in perestroika? 

… Yes, this is action packed. But what the hell is this movie?

Froemming: This movie is what you call a “mess” all around. 

At the precinct, Cash wants to interrogate the man who tried to kill him, which does not sound like the best idea. But, because he is Kurt Russell, he does it anyway by beating the bejesus out of the guy with a chair to force him to speak English?

This man just got a “get out of jail free card” with this bonehead move. 

Brown: I dunno, man. This is pre-Rodney King LAPD. Cash could have gotten away with a lot more. Not to mention later in the movie, we see how truly militarized the LAPD is when we meet Owen.

Another problematic bit: Cash realizes his issued pistol has been messed with, so he decides to start waving his gun around in confusion. In a police station. It’s not unlike Tommy DeVito waving his pistol around at a poker game before he shoots Spider in the foot in “Goodfellas.”

Froemming: Spider gets his revenge.

Brown: Anyways, after assaulting his would-be assassin in the bathroom, Cash gets a tip about something going down later that night. At about the same time, Tango gets the same info relayed to him.

And in the shadows, a man with a bizarre affection for mice is plotting to rid Los Angeles of Tango and Cash.

Froemming: Yeah, this man is Curly, and in a few years he will help some city slickers live out their fantasy of working on a ranch or something. Then the Joker will kill him.

Also, one of the other crime bosses here is played by Minnesotan actor James Hong. I am guessing this seedy criminal underworld lifestyle leads him to later on run a Chinese restaurant.

So, Curly has an elaborate plan for Tango and Cash. To frame them, send them to the wrong prison and have the prisoners have their form of justice take these guys out.

Scott, I will let you give your thoughts:

Brown: And this is all demonstrated by putting mice in a glass maze. Instead of just making the analogy, Curly (yeah, I don’t wanna look up the character’s actual name either) has to be literal about his analogy. And he’ll break out these mice a handful of other times in the movie because…? 

Also, the main henchman is a British man with a ponytail. This was one of the final movies released in the 1980s, and it was the perfect way to encapsulate a truth of the 1980s: men with ponytails are not to be trusted. I’ve never trusted anyone with a ponytail and that includes myself when my mom decided it was a good idea for me to have a rattail when I was 3 years old. 

Froemming: You had a rattail?

Brown: Yep. We lived in Texas at the time. It’s a real dark period for our family.

Anyways, Ponytail gets trailed by Tango at this meet-up. Eventually, Cash enters the fray and the two supercops start bickering about who’s the better cop and who’s leading this haphazard operation. 

Eventually, they end up finding someone tied to a chair that was shot in the chest and is, for some reason, wearing a wire. 

The feds arrive and Tango and Cash got some ‘splainin’ to do.

Froemming: Before we jump to that, quick question: Who wore the mullet/denim look better: Kurt Russell in this or Keegan-Michael Key in “Strike Force Eagle 3: The Reckoning?” 

Brown: Billy Ray Cyrus wore it better than either of them. 

While at the scene of the crime, Cash’s pistol is on the scene and is taken away as evidence. Tango and Cash are arrested and are to stand trial for murdering a federal agent and for being drug kingpins.

Throughout the trail, the evidence is damning for our two supercops. Ballistics say the bullet came from Cash’s gun. The audio from the wiretap has the two discussing the drug deal and killing the agent. 

And the entire time, Tango and Cash are just dropping quips and one-liners at each other about how they’re going to beat the shit out of these people who are falsifying evidence against them. Guys, you’re in a courtroom… this is the worst (REDACTED) place to discuss future crimes that you’d actually commit!

Froemming: Doesn’t help that their lawyer is Elaine’s boss and the judge is her pharmacist

Brown: Will there ever be a JOE-DOWN review where we don’t reference either “Seinfeld” or “The Simpsons?”

Froemming: No.

Well, our two heroes who openly discuss beating and murdering witnesses during their own trial are in a tough bind and are forced to take a plea deal. They will serve 18 months for *checks notes* murder and drug trafficking.

California is a weird state.

Brown: Also, the LA Times was incorrect in their CP article about Tango and Cash going to prison. The headline reads “GUILTY!” … But they pleaded no contest. That’s not an official admission of guilt, guys. That’ll probably sound like nitpicking to folks but we’re in journalism. Be accurate.

As part of the plea deal, Tango and Cash think they’re going to white-collar prison for 18 months. But with Curly continuing to pull the strings, the two are sent to a maximum-security prison and will be put in with the general population. Not a good thing for cops who apparently have arrested everyone in their cell block. 

Also, not a good thing for Tango when his cellmate is Clint Howard. At least it wasn’t creepy-ass kid actor Clint Howard.

Froemming: Yup, Tango is sharing a cell with The Smog Strangler!

Cash has a giant of a man as his, who rules the dirty toilet like Stalin ruled the U.S.S.R. And things go even worse one night, when Tango and Cash are kidnapped out of their cells, thrown in sacks and thrown down the laundry chute to meet a bunch of pissed-off prisoners.

Why are none of these chuckleheads in their cell? This movie tells us, and wants us to believe, every law enforcement agent and agency is on the take from criminals, except Tango and Cash. 

Anyway, we also have Curly in the shadows and the prisoners hook our heroes up so they are lowered into vats of water that prisoners are dipping open electric wires into.

*rubs temple* This…this movie makes no sense at all. 

Brown: Don’t forget that we have Cash go on this weird xenophobic tirade about how he doesn’t want to be killed by some butter-toothed Brit. He wants to be killed by an AMERICAN!

After that tirade, I 100 percent believe that Cash stormed the Capitol building.

Froemming: We won the war, Brown. No American should be killed by the Brits. 

Anyway, the police or guards break up this whole thing. And Tango and Cash talk with the assistant warden, who advises them to *checks notes* sigh escape from prison. 

Brown: In a laundry room/boiler room that is surrounded by prison guards and the assistant warden, how do Ponytail and Curly end up escaping through the shadows?

Also, the assistant warden is on Tango and Cash’s side. So why not set it up so they can be transferred to the proper prison instead of insisting they escape prison and risked being shot on sight? 

Froemming: I will let Ben Affleck answer this question:

So, Cash hatches a scheme to bail and Tango wants no part of it because he wants to be shanked and murdered in prison for reasons? 

Brown: He thinks the plan from the assistant warden is a setup. Also, I would have loved to see Clint Howard try to shiv Tango with his slinky, which is Clint Howard’s only character trait in this movie. 

Quick aside: What strange inmate would you rather see a standalone movie of: Clint Howard in “Tango & Cash” or Steve Buscemi in “Con-Air?”

Froemming: The answer will always be Clint Howard. 

And it turns out the escape was a setup, of sorts. Cash gets trapped in the bowels of the prison between a door and giant fans (?) and Tango shows up to save him (?). They then make a daring escape that includes climbing buildings, risking electrical wires that pop sparks in the rain and a whole bunch of hired goons

Brown: I absolutely believe that Stallone got the idea for future JOE-DOWN movie “Cliffhanger” from this electrical wire scene. 

The two supercops have escaped prison and separate as they try to find out who framed them. But before they separate, Tango tells Cash that he ever needs to contact him, go to the Cleopatra Club and ask for Katherine. 

Tango goes after the FBI agent that led the raid that got the two arrested. The FBI agent admits that Ponytail was in charge of the setup. While trying to get more info, he and Tango get into a scuffle, ending when the FBI agent gets blow’d up while trying to start his car like he’s Ace Rothstein in “Casino.” 

Unlike Ace, our agent doesn’t have a steel plate under the seat of his Cadillac. 

Unrelated: I want an Ace Rothstein pink suit jacket.

Froemming: Cash goes and visits his weapons engineer buddy in plain sight. Remember, the newspapers plastered these cops’ faces on A1 for a long time. How — does nobody recognize them and how do they not get arrested right away. 

Brown: We’ve been in the newspaper business long enough to know the answer: No one reads the newspaper. 

Froemming: Cash then goes to the strip club, where he is wowed by Katherine’s dance routine and drum act that is for some reason wildly popular, probably because cocaine. And, in case you were wondering…

Brown: I was less distracted by Teri Hatcher’s, ahem, assets, and more distracted on how off-beat her drumming was. If you’re going to have an act that involves drumming, do it right. 

Also, is this a strip club? I didn’t see anyone strip during the act. Sure, we see frontal nudity when Cash goes to the back to talk to Katherine, but it is a changing room so that’s to be expected. 

We forgot to mention that before this happens, Cash finds the audio expert who doctored the tape of Tango and Cash talking about the drug deal/assassination. He also takes a shotgun to the guy’s wildly expensive audio equipment that surely broke the heart of an audiophile like Froemming. I bet “Pet Sounds” would have been sublime on that sound system before Cash went all Man With No Name on it.

Froemming: I dunno, it just looked like a lot of computer nonsense to me. 

Anywho, Katherine sneaks Cash out of the strip club by *rubs temple* dressing him up as a woman and a cop asks them for a threesome.

They go to her place, where she for reasons gives this complete stranger a back massage on her couch. And this was probably the worst time for Tango to finally show up to his own house.

Which, I mean, both of these men are wanted fugitives. Wouldn’t the police be keeping an eye on this (REDACTED) place?

Brown: Right? The house is owned by Tango! Now, I’m not in law enforcement, but keeping an eye on homes owned by a fugitive seems like policing 101. 

Also, it turns out that Katherine is Tango’s sister, not his girlfriend like the movie insinuates at the start when we’re introduced to Katherine. So now, all I get from Tango and Katherine is incestuous vibes on par with Tony Montana in “Scarface.” 

Froemming: Yup.

Tango takes out some hired goon who is spying on these two from the window. 

Brown: Not a hired goon. It was the police captain there to tell Tango and Cash that he’d hold off the cops for 24 hours so they could clear their names in that time.

Froemming: Yeah, all I know is the captain meets a grizzly fate in another movie we have watched.

We get some banter here that adds nothing much to the plot besides kinda figuring out who set them up. And the next day, Tango and Cash break into the apartment of Ponytail, which leads them to hang the man upside down from the top of his building as they play bad cop/worse cop and tape a grenade to his face. How did they find his place? I have no (REDACTED) memory, so we’ll just have to live with it.

This ends with Ponytail spilling the beans, pissing his jeans and a dud grenade thrown down his pants. It looks more thrilling on paper than it was on the screen.

Brown: Don’t forget that Tango actually uses the phrase “Bumpin’ uglies” when asking if Cash had sex with his sister. 

Look, Tango and Cash are basically the same character with a palette swap. The problem is, Kurt Russell has charming charisma and Stallone does not. This is just the weirdest buddy cop movie I’ve seen. 

So after finding out where Curly is holed up, Tango and Cash meet up with Owen, who’s this movie’s Q. Here, they get a truck/SUV souped up with all sorts of weapons. 

Police militarization is a really big (REDACTED) issue in America, man. 

Froemming: Also, this is one of the ugliest vehicles I have ever seen in a movie. It is like a hybrid of the tumbler from the Dark Knight Trilogy and a soccer van.

Brown: Yes, it is the ugliest vehicle in a movie that has Suburbans that have missile launchers attached to the roof at Curly’s base that we now arrive at. 

So after dropping the kids off at soccer with Capri Suns and orange slices, Tango and Cash go to an abandoned air base where Curly is holed up. There’s a car chase with plenty of explosions and firepower. 

Froemming: This is less of an ending to a movie and more of a final boss stage in a beat em up video game. A bomb is set off once they are inside for 11 minutes, 30 seconds which is oddly specific for some reason. 

They then enter the place, where they cut down James Hong right away which kinda pissed me off.

Brown: Yeah, Tango and Cash gun down two crime lords who are working with Curly so they can run their enterprises unimpeded, not unlike how Lao gets hired in “The Dark Knight.” 

After that, Ponytail and another guy (who may as well be Jimmy Reno in “Road House”) get into hand-to-hand combat with Tango and Cash. This ends with Cash reviving the grenade in the pants act from before, only this time with an active grenade. 

So yes, this movie has a man literally get his dick blown off. 

My reaction was not unlike John Belushi’s here: 

Froemming: Not cool, Butters Cash.

Now we have the final showdown between Curly and our heroes. He holds Katherine hostage with a knife, and is in what looks like the hall of mirrors from “Enter The Dragon,” but in an elevator. Which Curly do they shoot to save the day? Well, Tango fires and gets it right. They killed Curly, leaving us to wonder how much gold he has hidden in the desert. 

Anyway, despite going on a murder spree since escaping prison, Tango and Cash are declared free and are back on the force after what I think the director thought would be an epic high-five.

It wasn’t. It was awkward. This whole movie felt awkward.

Brown, let’s head on down to recommendations.

WOULD YOU RECOMMEND?

Froemming: Nope. This movie was a mess. Firing the director, having a producer making too many calls and Stallone rewriting the script everyday made this movie a giant mess. 

Brown: I’d say yes, but not because it’s good. It’s got a weird energy to it and Sly Stallone is such a bad choice for Tango. But Kurt Russell is a lot of fun and at the end of the day, it’s stupid (really, really stupid) fun.

Here is what’s coming up for the next Joe-Down:

We will be on a brief hiatus for a few weeks. When we come back, we will jump into:

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