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MOVIE REVIEW : 'Tango and Cash': A Buddy Film Gone Bad

December 22, 1989|MICHAEL WILMINGTON

"Tango and Cash" (citywide) is a movie full of odd couples, and perhaps the oddest of all is star Sylvester Stallone and director Andrei Konchalovsky.

Stallone, who wrote "Rocky I-IV" and "Cobra"; Konchalovsky, who wrote the complex masterpieces "Andrei Roublev" and "Siberiade." Stallone, the balladeer of the underdog and impossible odds, of mano-a-mundo combat with hundreds of foes; Konchalovsky, who specializes in clashes between civilization and primitivism.

Where is their special \o7 glasnost\f7 ?

Not in "Tango and Cash," unfortunately, even though both of them and co-star Kurt Russell try their damnedest to ram it across. However gaudy its credits, it is one more--and one of the worst written--in an endless line of clenched-up, crashed-out, buddy-buddy L.A. cop star vehicles.

Once again, dueling cops of dissimilar dispositions are thrown together in a wisecracking hellish melee that explodes into a hostage crisis involving somebody's girlfriend.

Not unexpectedly, "Tango" is obsessed with explosions. People wire cars and jam grenades down each other's pants and, at the end, there is another computerized bomb ticking away. There is a quota of phallic gags. There is a sinister drug czar (Jack Palance, cackling away) and a brutish henchman (Brion James, from "Blade Runner").

The script, by Randy Feldman, appears to have been written by a man under a death order not to include, or even to suggest, an original notion. Feldman begins with a Superman Odd Couple: the two heaviest LAPD narc cops, who have oddly never met, thrown together when they're framed.

Feldman doesn't waste time placing these two in tell-tale environments. They're introduced to us by their wardrobes. Stallone as Tango favors elegant Armani suits; blue-jeaned Russell as Cash is the guy who's called "funky." Nor does the writer fool around with ripening tensions. He just wheels his stars up like a couple of howitzers and has them start blasting wisecracks at each other. \o7 Wise \f7 cracks is a misnomer.

Konchalovsky once offered this excellent critical criteria. Good movies, he said, are "unpredictable but logical." The mediocre are "predictable and logical." The bad are "predictable but illogical." Other than the chance to work with Stallone and Russell, or to do a few more prison sequences in the "Runaway Train" vein, it's hard to guess what attracted him to "Tango and Cash," a predictable, illogical movie if there ever was one.

The director plays it bright and hard, hurling the incongruities right at us. But it's not entirely his fault. Executive producer Peter MacDonald ("Rambo III") did the action sequences, and Albert Magnoli ("Purple Rain") mopped up and reshot several scenes, including the absurd opener where Tango stops a gasoline truck full of drugs by standing in front of it and firing his gun.

Freed from the commemorative coin-style posturings of his recent roles, Stallone gives a quick, lively, likable performance. He plays Tango as a slightly fey dandy, steps on his cues, flirts with the camera. He seems more open, jocular, self-amused. And Russell, brilliant in recent films like "Tequila Sunrise," is a good foil here.

But "Tango and Cash" (rated R, for violence, nudity and language) is a waste of talent and energy on all levels: unworthy of Konchalovsky, unworthy also of Stallone, Russell and every superior technical credit on the film.

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