Tango & Cash (1989) Film Review by Gareth Rhodes

Tango & Cash (1989) Directed by Andrei Konchalovsky. With Sylvester Stallone, Kurt Russell, Teri Hatcher and Jack Palance.


The wave of buddy-cop action-comedies of the 1980’s culminates with Tango & Cash. Sylvester Stallone is ‘Tango’ and Kurt Russell is ‘Cash’, two of L.A’s top rival cops, brought together to fight each other’s egos and a nefarious crime-lord.

It’s a good thing that Russell and Stallone appear to enjoy themselves, as without their camaraderie the film would rapidly sink under the weight of its own stupidity. I’m not saying that ‘stupid’ isn’t sometimes fun, but it’s better if it has a little purpose. Here, all we have is two big film stars against a group of generic, baddie-of-the-week antagonists (dodgy dealings with munitions, or something) led by Jack Palance.

The action-comedy enjoyed a boom in the mid-to-late-80’s, and the influence of Lethal Weapon and Beverley Hills Cop is abundantly clear. Indeed, for better of worse, Kurt Russell’s ‘Lt Gabriel Cash’ employs the same hair and wardrobe assistant as Mel Gibson’s Martin Riggs. Mere seconds into Russell’s very first scene, he’s hit at point blank range with a pump-action shotgun. Almost instantly, he’s seen leaping to his feet, which begins an elaborate chase sequence to apprehend the assailant. This sets a precedent for the kind of blind stupidity you’re expected to accept.

There’s some cute in-jokes; Cash turns to Tango and asks if he stopped “for coffee and a Danish.” Tango replies – “I hate Danish!,” – an obvious swipe at Danish actress Brigitte Nielsen, whom Stallone had recently divorced. Sly also pokes a little fun at his Rambo persona. These moments, though, are small diversions in a wafer-thin script that tries to paper-over gaping plot holes by throwing star-power at the screen. There’s so much that happens that makes absolutely no sense at all. In one scene, the words ‘star vehicle‘ couldn’t be more apt, as our heroes drive a state of the art SUV (bulletproof and machine-gun mounted, of course) built for and given to them by Michael J.Pollard, a comedic take on the already comedic ‘Q‘ from James Bond. How this is funded and/or is available to them (given their predicament), is anyone’s guess, but it’d be no use asking the screenwriter, ‘cos it’s clear he doesn’t know either.

For those invested in some late-80’s nostalgia, Tango & Cash might be borderline enjoyable for the on-screen sparring of Russell and Stallone, but the overall product is a messy, pieced-together scrapbook of explosions and automatic gunfire, with little that makes much sense between. 2.5/5


About garethrhodes

Full-time lover of all things creative.
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3 Responses to Tango & Cash (1989) Film Review by Gareth Rhodes

  1. Sean says:

    Oh yeah, this exists! You are right on with your review. Even I think this movie is too dumb to really enjoy, and I usually love big dumb action movies!

  2. Chris Evans says:

    Must admit I enjoy this as guilty pleasure from time to time, but you’re totally right in that it’s the camaraderie between Sly and Kurt (together with the in-jokes, didn’t get the Danish one on previous viewings though so thanks for that!) that facilitates any enjoyment!

    • garethrhodes says:

      Yes, liking Sly and Russell is key to any enjoyment. I remember seeing it as an impressionable teen and enjoying the humour and action. All these years on, there were little moments that made me smile. Just not quite enough of them, sadly.

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