Editor’s note: With our own Junkfood addict Brian Salisbury busy writing through the typhoon that is SXSW, we’ve farmed out his column to similarly-minded Rejects. First up – Adam Charles!
Welcome back to Junkfood Cinema. Our jokes are as good as our speling. I’m just kidding…we are good speller.
You’ve found yourselves in the annals of a column dedicated to nearly all of the works of Sylvester Stallone except for that one when his Mom will shoot and he’ll warn you about it. We eventually plan on retitling this column Junkfood Cinema: It Is The Laauuwww and today we add one more notch onto the “Stallone takes over Junkfood Cinema” tally, but just before we draw the line to make it complete we’ll offer up a suggestion of something to throw down your kisser in celebration. This week, we give you Tango & Cash.
What Makes It Bad?
You know how comedians make that joke about how when they grew up their parents couldn’t afford the name-brand stuff so they had to get knock-offs that looked like the real deal, but were named slightly different? They had Mikes instead of Nikes; or they couldn’t afford Reebok, so they could only get the ‘bok just the one time? Tango & Cash is kinda like that. It was written by a “Shain Blak,” aka Randy Feldman of the Feldman Brothers and neither of which are related to the the most famous Feldman. His brother Dennis has more recognizable ’80s writer credits (Just One of the Guys, The Golden Child, Real Men, and he later gave us Species) and together they form a writer that’s about half as clever as they believe they are, which at its best is about a third as clever as the actual Shane Black.
Almost every intentional joke falls flat on its face and with it being so rapidfire, like a Shane Black-type of script, it’s like watching a kid playfully run after his dad and falling down every two steps, but he continues to get back up and run and continues to fall for 90 minutes. If they had written a movie where a kid does that the monotony of falling would be more hilarious than what my metaphor was supposed to represent.
It gets so out of control that there are even moments where you can’t tell whether the writer is more fed up with himself and his own lack of creativity that he writes in moments of “REALLY?!, that’s the best I got?” or if it’s the actors ad-libbing their own frustrations towards the writer and reacting with a “REALLY?! That’s the best thing you could give me to say?”
Gabriel Cash: Ah the sonofabitch can speak English!! I’m tellin’ ya the Squarecrow can talk!
Ray Tango: “Squarecrow”?
Gabriel Cash: What would you call it?
I don’t know, Cash, I don’t know what I’d call it, but that’s why Shane Black should write these things and they should have hired him. Lack of clever word-make-uppist-ness I can obviously forgive, because I sure as hell can’t do it, but my Mom always told me that if I can’t say anything right then I should hire a better son. Words to live by, studio.
The constant failure at quick-witted banter isn’t really this film’s biggest problem though. Tango & Cash, quite literally, has the most uselessly inexplicable evil plot ever conceived. Jack Palance plays Yves Perret, a powerful drug and weapons dealer in L.A. who has lost hundreds of millions of dollars over a span of a couple of months thanks to the two police lieutenants Tango and Cash. Perret has two henchman that ask the very simple question, “why don’t we just kill them?”
Seems like a simple solution and it isn’t like you couldn’t make the movie about them actually trying to kill those two men. It’s not that simple though, and with Perret’s awkwardly uncomfortable relationship with his two pet mice I can understand why in the head of someone like that just killing them is not the way to go.
Seriously, this guy’s over-cuddliness with his mice is not intimidating, it’s just weird. Willard himself would use Perret as a defense against being called weird about his own relationship with mice/rats. Willard is like Fagin to rodents. Yves Perret is like Michael Jackson and I don’t care if it is or isn’t harmless the way he cuddles with them on his face, it’s effin’ weird and he shouldn’t be bringing them into his lavish house with huge mazes for them to play in and be touching them.
In any case, according to Perret they can’t kill the two cops because they’ve gained so much publicity and notoriety for their success that they’re now heroes, and killing them would be waging all out war against the police department. Which, I guess is completely unlike what’s been happening this whole time. It’s as if cops sit around all day and say “Hey, we should go catch a drug dealer!…Wait…nah, no cops have died, everything’s cool.” They’re going to come after you regardless, so just kill them and be a better villain.
He doesn’t go that route, he decides it’s best to defame them by framing them for drug corruption and murder – which makes no sense, because none of the cops who see them as heroes believe they did what they were framed for and therefore believe they were set up – thus, I would think those cops would most likely want to wage war on you because you framed their heroes, So Just Kill Them and Be a Better Villain!
The capper of this plan is that once they are convicted they can be killed in prison and make it look semi-expected because they’ll be in a prison filled with inmates that they put away and want revenge on them. Only, for that to happen, they need to not go to the minimum security facility they were sentenced to and therefore need to be re-routed to the other prison by coincidence, which looks in no way suspicious to the people that think they’re heroes; and I would think would most likely Wanna Wage War on you because you are obviously trying to kill them, SO JUST KILL THEM THEM AND BE A BETTER VILLAIN!
And dammit, stop playing with those mice! It’s weird!
I don’t have the energy to get into the preposterousness of the final showdown or a male cop thinking that Kurt Russell looks hot in drag. Just know the ending involves Teri Hatcher and someone being shot square in the forehead while holding her hostage in the line of fire by a bullet shot from the bottom of Cash’s boot, and why Cash thinks that it was a better idea to try and shoot a bad guy holding his love interest in front of him by blindly aiming the bottom of his foot at the man’s head was a better idea than using the gun with a laser-sighted target aimed dead-center on a man’s forehead is completely beyond me.
Why I Love It!
Because Kurt Russell is the man and regardless of what kind of ridiculous plot you throw him into and what kind of unfunny lines you give him to say, he’ll make it work. He was born with some kind of other-worldly charisma and likeable buffoonery that even Sly being unfunny (with a character nowhere near as witty as the character thinks he is) can’t bring him down. You can’t even tell that half the lines given to Russell aren’t that good, because he makes them good. He makes me wish I was Goldie Hawn.
I’ll also give the writer credit that for every ten to fifteen attempted witty one-liners and banter that fails there is the one or two somewhere in there that work, like during the action climax the two are driving around the drug complex in a pretty wicked demolition/machine gun SUV thing and Cash tells Tango he’s got good news and bad news with the bad news being that they’re almost out of gas, and then for the good news he reiterates the same thing but stresses that they’re ALMOST out of gas.
Overall, the movie isn’t particularly good, but there’s a good chemistry with Sly and Russell that even when their characters aren’t clever they’re entertaining. Russell more than Sly…but it’s a dual effort.
Junkfood Pairing: Tango Soft Drink and Chocolate Gold Coins
If the bad one-liners and the incredibly dumb plan of “Jack Palance the mouse-molester” don’t hurt your stomach, a handful of chocolate gold coins and a British soda likely will. And if that doesn’t hurt your stomach, this way-too-on-the-nose junkfood pairing should.
Thank you, I’m Shayn Blach, and am now going to buy my Mother a new son.