Tango & Cash (1989)
Director: Andrei Konchalovsky
Written by: Randy Feldman
Starring : Sylvester Stallone as Ray Tango
Kurt Russel as Gabe Cash
Teri Hatcher as Kiki Tango
Jack Palance as Yves Perret
Tagline: Two of L.A.’s top rival cops are going to work together… even if it kills them.
By Rob Rector
Pre-screening memories: It was moments before the dawn of a new decade. The crazy 80s were coming to a close, as was the career of one of the decade’s action stalwarts — Sylvester Stallone. For many growing up in the 80s, Stallone was the embodiment of manliness (however misguided that may have been). He was never as freakishly lumpy as Schwarzenegger and seemed as though he could easily be the cool older guy in the neighborhood who would let you peek at his firearm collection, pour over his stack of “Hustler’s” or perhaps let you sip a beer.
Sadly, there was no such neighbor in my little slice of suburbia. The closest thing we had was a gap-toothed guy who would watch us through his perpetually drawn blinds and smile menacingly and whose front yard was a graveyard of car parts that he would mow around until they were enveloped by vegetation.
Cinematically, Stallone was not one to go out with a whimper. He was going to go down swinging and show those new upstarts like Jeff Speakman and Jean Claude Van Damme, Steven Seagal and Brian Bosworth a thing or two about action.
And my friends and I were eager to watch. (For it was not too long after this that he would begin his trajectory downward with films like Rocky V, Oscar, Stop, or My Mom Will Shoot!, The Specialist and to the direct-to-video dustbin with films like D-Tox, Avenging Angelo and Shade.)
His latest was a pairing of him and Snake Plissken himself, Kurt Russel. They starred as two improbably named LAPD cops who “just can’t play by the rules.” Exactly the kind of cops we like on screen — just not in real life, as they usually end up on the wrong side of a video camera, bludgeoning away rights to random motorists.
While the plot itself left no actual bootprint on my brain, the script did drop some new vocabulary into our high school lexicon. Being the typical testosterone-saturated actioner, the expressions were both lewd and profane, but they were nonetheless influential. Being a male teen any new and creative euphemism or idiom or for intercourse was met with guffaws, a round of high-fives and a temporary admiration of one’s peers. (Of course, really any combination of a verb and noun could be inserted, Mad-Libs-style into the sentence “I’d like to ___________ her ___________” and, with the right emphasis on “her,” you’ve got yourself a new filth-filled expression.)
Forget the fact that none of us had really ever even performed said act.
So, when Sly refers to it as “bump uglies,” we knew we had a keeper.
The second expression we adopted was FUBAR. While new to us, it was actually one that originated during World War II as an acronym for F**ked Up Beyond All Recognition.
Other than that, I remember the two leads being oh-so-witty, able to launch a quip or a retort under the most extreme circumstances. And while the general plot escaped me (something with them being framed by someone and avenging something else). That, and the promise of manly men doing manly things with other manly, manly men in a mannish manner.
I was sure that revisiting the film would at least entertain on that level alone, right?
The answer is right here: