It has wild shifts in tone that give it the appearance of an action heavy, mismatched buddy cop movie when really it teeters on the edge of being a spoof of that genre, with it's wise cracking, oddball array of secondary characters and, in one scene, cross dressing.
It has a paper thin set up that has plot holes a-plenty, no ending and darts from one scene to the next happily abandoning any pretense of structure or explanation, everything has to be taken on face value and everything, no matter how implausible is simply there to push us on to the next implausible thing. Basically it's one of those 'check your inner film snob at the door' type films, for this you should just sit back, laugh and enjoy.
Especially at some of the 'meta' or 'knowing' jokes that are in the film like Stallone, early on, saying "Rambo was a pussy".
It is for the reasons above that explaining the plot for this cheese-ball fest that ricochets from gags to garottings, is a bit like trying to explain the appeal of Kurt Russell's mullet. On him, it just works.
However, very quickly, it involves an underworld king pin played by Jack Palance who has an evil villain warehouse lair with a maze for his mice (evil mice presumably) in the top of his bar, a wall of televisions and red haired, pony tail wearing hard man with one of the worst British accents to appear on screen since The Van Dykester in that Poppins movie. Wouldn't you know that his elaborate drug smuggling plots are aways foiled by either the scruffy, fast talking, cowboy boot wearing and mullet sporting Gabriel Cash, who has a very nifty gun with a glaringly obvious laser site or by Raymond Tango, the Armani suit wearing, stocks and shares dealing, bespectacled tree-trunk of a cop who does the job purely for the thrills and not the cash.
Despite being able to orchestrate a fairly obvious, yet curiously successful, frame up of the two troublesome coppers and through, what must've been some fairly hefty string pulling, manage to get them into a prison for hardened criminals, most of whom they have put away, he still refuses, even when he has them in his grasp, to just, I don't know, shoot them in the face, for reasons neither I nor James Wong will ever understand.
Through an even more massive contrivance the two narrowly escape from prison, Cash hooks up with Tango's sister, while dressed as a woman (because he's that much of a man or maybe she is a bit bi-curious) and that leads to some hilarious indignant posturing from Tango. This goes on for a while until everyone decides to be friends, take a super truck thing from Cash's weird Q (from James Bond) like friend and storm the gates of the evil hideout and blow everything up. Which presumably, if they wanted to, they could've done this months ago and saved the tax payers the cost of an expensive trial.
Still, it all works out in the end, sort of.
Well it actually has an A-Team like ending but then just when you expect to see some postscript of maybe Tango and Cash strolling down the beach playing ball with a strangers dog while Terry Hatcher, Tango's sister, struts around laughing like an idiot in a bikini, instead you just get the credits with little to no idea whether these two on-the-lam cops will be sent back to prison or what. Let's assume, for argument's sake, that the entire city is now safe and they all have a lovely holiday in Rio for a month.
Maybe for all these reasons it's a bit of a lost gem. While you can hardly call yourself a fan of Stallone or Russell's without having seen it, I think, for the masses, it has been lost through the years under a pile of Die Hard's, Lethal Weapon's, Stallone's own franchises of Rocky and Rambo and even 48 Hours which seems to be more fondly remembered than messers Raymond Tango and Gabriel Cash.
It's a shame because it's pretty out there, pretty funny, well performed by both leads, atmospherically directed and one of the lucky few that bares the credit - Score by Harold Faltermeyer, no it's not going to win any Oscars or even points for good plotting from the Marlon Brando school for incomprehensible gibberish spouted by drunk bus drivers but if you disengage your brain and switch on your dopey man grin then you'll be in for a good 90 minutes of hilarity, bad hair and bonkers kick assery.
7 out of 10 slices of surreal man cake
Points from The Wife - 6 out of 10
You can hear me discuss Tango & Cash and more Stallone/Russell films on episode 2 & 3 of The Podcast from the After Movie Diner which can be downloaded from iTunes or http://www.talkshoe.com/tc/110745
or just listen to it here on the site using the Talkshoe player on your left
or go to http://amdpodcast.blogspot.com