Follow TV Tropes


Film / Tango and Cash

Go To

Tango and Cash is a 1989 action comedy film directed by Andrei Konchalovsky, and starring Sylvester Stallone, Kurt Russell, Jack Palance, Teri Hatcher, Brion James, Geoffrey Lewis, James Hong, Michael J. Pollard, Robert Z Dar, Michael Jeter, Edward Bunker, and Clint Howard.

The story centers on two rival Los Angeles policemen: dapper, straitlaced cop Raymond "Ray" Tango (Stallone), and aggressive, rough-around-the-edges cop Gabriel "Gabe" Cash (Russell), and their attempts to outdo each other. But when an arch-enemy of theirs, drug lord Yves Perret (Palance), decides to even the score and frames them for murder, Tango and Cash suddenly find themselves among the same prisoners they had put away themselves. It doesn't take long before they realize they're going to have to put aside their differences and work together in order to get even with Perret and clear their names, even if it ends up killing them.

This film contains examples of:

  • '80s Hair: A massive afro-like mullet worn by Katherine.
  • Accidental Aiming Skills: Used as a Bond One-Liner at the climax, when Perret is using Katherine as a Human Shield. Tango and Cash decide to shoot him on the knees simultaneously at the count of three, but when they get to "three" they shoot Perret dead center in the forehead (very tight double-tap, too). They both agree on claiming their gun sights were off.
  • Actor Allusion: In the opening, Tango makes this remark:
    Rambo is a pussy.
  • Armed Legs: Cash's derringer-concealing boots, which fire right out of the boot's heel (or as Tango decides to deride them, "bazooka-boots").
  • The Armorer: Owen. One of the LAPD's R&D guys, he made Cash's "bazooka-boots" at some point before the movie started and Cash and Tango come to see him a couple of times throughout the film to get their hands on gear.
  • Artistic License – Gun Safety: When Cash finds out someone adjusted the sights on his gun he decides to wave it around in the police station with his finger on the trigger.
  • Badass Boast: When a character claims that Tango "thinks he's Rambo," Tango replies that "Rambo is a pussy." He stops just short of prefacing it with "compared to me."
  • Badass in a Nice Suit: Tango all the way. He is even called on that by his commander.
  • Bait-and-Switch: Cash appears to be going to sneak out of the strip club in a motorcycle helmet. However the cops stop the helmet-wearing person who leaves the strip club, only for it to turn out to be Katherine, who gets on her motorbike and calls out for her 'girlfriend'. Cue Disguised in Drag.
  • Bigger Is Better in Bed: Inverted Trope: Tango makes several jokes throughout about the fact Cash's penis is smaller than his own (which they discover in the prison showers) (the gag would be played straight with Tango).
  • Bilingual Bonus: "Requin" is French for "Shark", though the character is supposed to be Cockney.
  • Brick Joke: crossed with a literal Chekhov's Gun; Cash checks his spare pistol early in the film and notices the sight is shifted, getting pissed that someone messed with it (this is the gun that gets planted at the setup, framing him and Tango). At the climax, Tango and Cash agree to take Perett alive... Until he threatens Katherine, at which they instantly shoot him in the head. Their excuse?
    Tango: My sight's shifted.
    Cash: Mine, too.
  • Bring My Brown Pants: Requin wets himself when Tango tapes a grenade to his mouth during an interrogation.
  • Buddy Cop Show: The main characters are two rival cops who are both known as the best in the city and are rivals forced to work together to clear their names.
  • Bungling Inventor: Owen. His Establishing Character Moment includes a number of absurd devices that he is developing for LAPD or civilian use and are to be used for self-defense... some of which backfire hilariously.
  • Celebrity Paradox: Tango, Sylvester Stallone's character, disparages Rambo, whom he also played. Nobody mentions they're identical in appearance (well, aside from different haircuts).
  • Chekhov's Gun:
    • Cash's backup weapon is used to frame him.
    • Tango's .38, which he uses throughout the first act and Cash derides as dinky (although Tango's showcased himself to be badass enough to not need any more gun) is forgotten about after that... and then it turns out that Tango had been carrying it in an ankle holster all along, and so he uses it to Shoot the Hostage Taker alongside Cash at the climax.
  • Clear My Name: Both protagonists are framed for murder and sent to prison. The main plot involves them clearing their names.
  • *Click* Hello: Done twice in one scene where Cash is investigating Requin's house. Requin gets the drop on Cash, but immediately after Requin utters a one-liner, Tango gets the drop on him.
  • Combat Pragmatist: Cash, particularly the manner in which he dispatches The Dragon.
  • Complexity Addiction: Perret's plan is absurdly complicated and it's lampshaded as such by the other crime lords that hear it when he proposes it. Perret's response is that it's needed to make sure that Tango and Cash don't end up becoming martyrs amongst the other cops. The other crime lords end up agreeing as a result for the moment. When the titular duo manages to escape prison the crime lords tell Perret that they believe his plan didn't work and are going to send assassins to find them, and Perret belts out a borderline-whiny Big "NO!" in response that shuts them up and they never do it.
  • Conveniently Empty Roads: The Action Prologue features Tango chasing down a drug-carrying tanker truck on a deserted stretch of highway, giving him plenty of time to pull ahead and use his marksman skills to force the driver to a stop; while the truck is being searched a short while later, the cops direct a LONG line of traffic around it that sprung up out of nowhere.
  • Cool Car: A fashionably-militarized 1988 Chevrolet Silverado 2500 AKA the "RV from Hell."
    Owen: Double-armored, bulletproof glazing. 1 20mm cannon on the driver's side. Transfer case has torque splitting. It'll see 60 in five and a half seconds and pull high-tens in the quarter.
  • Cool Guns:
    • Cash's revolver with laser sight.
    • For a second (as they are getting out of the RV from Hell) you can see Tango carrying a Calico M900
  • Cowboy Cop:
    • Tango and Cash are both established as wild, rules-flouting cops who get results.
    • Deconstructed when Tango and Cash are put on trial. Several witnesses are criminals they put away who testify on the methods used by the titular characters.
  • Crazy-Prepared: Tango's signature weapon throughout the first act is a .38 Special snub-nosed pocket revolver that, compared to Cash's pistol with its massive Laser Sight, doesn't looks powerful (although Tango's showcased himself as badass enough that he doesn't needs a bigger gun) and Cash derides it during the Mexican Standoff when they first meet face to face... but to his misfortune, Tango demonstrates he also carries a .45 by pulling it out and aiming it point-blank at Cash's groin. At the climax, after a long second and third act where both cops have carried nothing but large guns, Cash showcases that he's been carrying the .38 all of the time in an ankle holster, which he uses to shoot Perret alongside Cash.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Cash. Tango has his moments as well, most of them aimed at Cash. He later shoots one last dig at the fact that Owen was the inventor of Cash's "bazooka-boots") aside from this gem:
    Cash: Do you have any idea of what we're working with here?! This (the armed Silverado) is a violent work of art!
    Tango: (checking the minigun on the Silverado's side) And who owns the pink slip? Satan?
  • Disc-One Final Boss: During their prison break, Tango and Cash are pursued by corrupt guards led by Face, the thug Tango arrested in the prologue. Face catches Tango on the prison roof, and Tango has to fight him off to make his escape.
  • Disguised in Drag: Cash, when he gets away from the strip club that Katherine works in with Katherine in tow. The cops don't look close enough (even when they are at point-blank range), mistaking Katherine and Cash for a same-sex couple.
  • Distracted by the Sexy: When Cash eludes the cops searching the Cleopatra club during Katherine's striptease, Katherine covers for him by flirting with one of the uniformed officers.
  • Don't Create a Martyr: The reason why Perret manages to convince the other criminal leaders that his plan to set up the titular pair of Cowboy Cops is the best (even if they complain about how complicated it is, and instead of just tossing as many assassins as it takes to kill them) is that if they just up and die, while they are still respected by the public and the LAPD as hero cops, the response will be an increase of difficulty in their criminal enterprises courtesy of crusading cops—but if they are disgraced as a set-up for the kill...
  • The Dragon: Requin. Aside from using Katherine as a Human Shield at the end, Perret is a Non-Action Big Bad.
  • Fanservice Extra: During a car chase in a parking garage, one of the vehicles used bumps into a parked car where a couple is having sex in the back seat. The girl is on top and her naked upper half is shown as they stop and see what's going on. Several topless female strippers are seen in the strip club.
  • Fingertip Drug Analysis: Tango checks a substance in the beginning to confirm that it's cocaine by tasting it.
  • Flashed-Badge Hijack: Cash takes a guy's car this way, who loudly protests (especially after it gets wrecked in his chase with a suspect).
  • Foil: Tango and Cash both work different sides of the city, dress differently, with Tango being a Sharp-Dressed Man and Cash being more the unkempt type. Even their initial sidearms are polar opposites, with Tango favouring a small revolver and a larger automatic, while Cash opts for a large revolver and a small automatic.
  • Frame-Up: Both protagonists are framed by gangsters for murder to get rid of them, so they won't keep shutting down their drug business.
  • Fun with Acronyms: F.U.B.A.R.-F*cked Up Beyond All Recognition.
  • Glory Hound: Tango initially pegs Cash as this.
  • Good Cop/Bad Cop: Invoked with much relish by Tango and Cash while interrogating Requin, though they like to call it "Bad Cop, Worse Cop." The "worse cop" part involves a grenade duct-taped to Requin's mouth, by the way.
  • Great Escape: The second act ends with Tango and Cash leaving the Hellhole Prison that they were thrown in order to Clear Their Names.
  • Groin Attack: In this case, Cash killing Requin by shoving a live grenade down his pants.
  • Hand Cannon: Cash lugs around a large pistol with an enormous laser sight on top of it.
  • Hidden Wire: Placed on the man Tango and Cash are framed for the killing. But the wire isn't used to incriminate them, but to explain the origins of the tape with an incriminating recording of them that had been constructed from numerous real recordings of their voices.
  • High-Altitude Interrogation: Used by Tango and Cash, though the victim is unfazed and even taunts them to let go.
  • Hollywood Law: The protagonists are prosecuted on a charge of murdering an undercover FBI agent, a federal crime. However, it was explicitly done by the LA county District Attorney, who only has jurisdiction over state crimes. Later though it's said they're sent to a federal prison.
  • Improbable Weapon User: Cash has a gun built into his boot, with the barrel in the heel, causing him to take an unusual stance when firing. It comes in handy whenever he is knocked off his feet and needs to get counterattack quickly.
  • Improvised Zipline: How they escape prison, using their belts and the prison's electrical cables.
  • Innocent Innuendo: The back massage scene (Cash and Katherine are working on putting one of the discs of Cash's spine back into place. The excited, pleased sounds and talking about how "I can feel it's almost in!" don't really make Tango comfortable). To Tango's credit, he doesn't immediately run in and kick Cash's ass for hitting on his sister. Unfortunately, sis has no interest in explaining that it's Not What It Looks Like.
  • In Prison with the Rogues: After being framed, Tango and Cash are forced to accept a plea bargain that allows them a light sentence in a minimum-security prison. Instead, they're dumped in a supermax loaded with violent inmates the duo themselves put away.
  • Interrogation by Vandalism: Cash's interrogation of the sound technician who testified in court against them (and who was also the one who manufactured the incriminating fake audiotape) takes it up to eleven via Cash demolishing the sound tech's equipment with a shotgun and threatening to shoot said tech's head off with it.
  • Jack Bauer Interrogation Technique:
  • Large Ham: Perret, played with much gusto by Jack Palance. He sees the Storming the Castle Car Chase on his office's screens and cheers for his henchmen like he was watching the Super Bowl!
  • Laser Sight: Cash has a preference for them (and it being technology from The '80s, the laser sights are almost as big as the handguns they are attached to!).
  • Massage of Love: Played for Laughs: Cash is given shelter by Katherine, Tango's sister (whom Cash believes is actually his girlfriend). She gives him a friendly massage to help fix his back, injured in their prison escape, and he makes a point of not letting it get too friendly even though he gets a crush on her. Unfortunately, Tango quietly enters as they enthusiastically slip a disc back into place, and is dismayed to think they're having sex (to his credit, he doesn't immediately interrupt to beat the shit out of Cash).
  • Mr. Fanservice: Despite heavily targeting a male demographic, seeing the backsides of Stallone and Russell in the shower scene likely helped many a girlfriend sit through this film.
  • Ms. Fanservice: Tango's sister, Katherine. She's seen doing a striptease in front of a giant fan (she's a stripper and her bar has some high-quality routines... It Makes Sense in Context).
  • My Sister Is Off-Limits: Tango doesn't want Cash dating his sister. When Cash says he'll wait until he has Tango's blessing, he tells him, "In that case, never!" One of the more respectful cases, actually; he walks in on his sister massaging one of Cash's spinal discs into place (which from dialogue along with her movements made it seem like they were having sex), but stays quiet and out of sight, plotting his future vengeance on Cash.
  • Not What It Looks Like: Averted; after the Innocent Innuendo scene, Katherine trolls her brother by refusing to explain what was actually happening.
  • Odd Couple: Interestingly, both members of the couple are examples of the Cowboy Cop. It's just that looks-wise they are almost Slobs vs. Snobs.
  • Oh, Crap!: The reaction of the pair when they realize that rather than a "country club" prison where they'd be in protective custody, they're being sent to the most maximum-security prison in California that happens to be packed with guys they put away.
  • One-Liner: Maybe the most one-liner-ridden script ever written.
  • Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: Requin has probably the worst Cockney accent this side of Dick Van Dyke.
  • Pin-Pulling Teeth: When struggling with Requin, Cash pops up with a hand grenade and pulls the pin with his teeth (and using his middle finger to pop the spoon handle). Justified, as his free hand is grasping Requin's wrist to keep him from using his straight razor, and his other has him locked in a clinch.
  • Pun: Seeing newspaper headlines on the rivalry between the two super cops, Da Chief growls that it's "Downtown Clown versus Beverley Hill Wop."
  • Pretty Little Headshots: Yves, the main villain, gets two bullets, fired simultaneously by Tango and Cash, in his face, resulting in two dainty little bleeding holes on his forehead.
  • Recorded Spliced Conversation: Perret's plan to frame the duo for the murder of an undercover federal agent and thus disgrace them includes hiring an audio expert to create one of these out of audio samples of them, plant it on the agent's Hidden Wire pickup, and have the audio expert (that is the best in the business in L.A.) testify the veracity of the recording.
    Cash: (while he's interrogating the technician) Oh, hey, look! (pulls out various audio tapes) Here's some of my best hits... (pulls out more tapes) ...and Tango's. I suppose you (the technician) could create quite the nice mix-tape with them, right?
  • Relative Error: Cash initially assumes Tango's sister to be his girlfriend. For that matter, so did probably most viewers, since it's never spelled out until Tango accidentally walks in on them. Which, when you think about it, unwittingly makes Cash far more of an asshole when he starts flirting with her behind Tango's back than he would otherwise be.
  • Remember the New Guy?: An odd example, in the film's climax, Requin just suddenly introduces some random heavy that also holds heavy grudges against Tango & Cash... mostly so Tango has someone to fight while Cash tangles with Requin.
  • Right for the Wrong Reasons: When they are in the jailhouse showers, Cash tells Tango his theory that the Frame-Up was made by Cash's Arch-Enemy drug lords, Cheng and Lopez (or rather Lopez pretending it's Cheng). Cash is correct that they are involved, but that is because they are lackeys to Perret.
  • Sexophone: Played for Laughs during Cash's "drag scene."
  • Sharp-Dressed Man: Cash refers to Tango as "Armani with a badge".
  • Shower Scene: In prison, complete with Slippery Soap gag.
  • Soft Glass: Both villains and heroes go through windows without any cuts.
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome: In a film full to the brim with Cowboy Cop antics of the highest octane, there is a minor moment of reality when the Triad soldier Cash strangles info out of early on is called as a witness by the FBI and showing the bruises of Cash brutalizing him puts our heroes in hotter water.
    • The weaponized Chevy Silverado has some truly impressive armor plating... which probably helps reduce the vehicle's already-lower gas mileage. During the assault on Perret's airfield, the vehicle almost runs out of gas before Tango and Cash have to abandon it.
  • Take That!: Sylvester Stallone does one at himself. When a fellow cop compares his character to Rambo, Stallone declares "Rambo is a pussy" and shoots a tanker truck full of gasoline.
  • Teeny Weenie: During the aforementioned shower scene, Cash takes a glance down below and calls Tango "Pee-Wee". Later, when the two pick up guns for battle, Cash notices he has the smaller gun. He asks, "Why's yours so much bigger than mine?" and Tango replies, "Genetics, Pee-Wee."
  • Transparent Closet: There are several moments that hint at Tango being gay, although it never explicitly says as much. And he is not very enthusiastic when Cash drops the soap in the prison shower.
    Cash: I hear they have a gym. You can start pumping at 5 am!
  • Troperrific: One of the last movies Hollywood released in the 1980s (it came out December 22nd, 1989) it seems out to cram every single '80s action movie moment into one movie, although it can swing wildly between Deconstruction and Playing It Straight, sometimes in the same scene.
  • Weaponized Car: The fashionably-militarized 1988 Chevrolet Silverado 2500, with a side-mounted minigun, concealed machine guns, armored and up-engined up the wazoo.
    Owen: It could drive through a brick wall.
  • Why Don't You Just Shoot Him?: This is all but openly stated by Perret's allies, who repeatedly fail to see the logic in Perret's over-complicated scheme and basically suggest sending their heavies out to kill Tango and Cash instead. Perret rejects this on the basis that doing so would make the two martyrs, but the real reason appears to be a mixture of Complexity Addiction and the fact that there wouldn't be a movie if they did.


Video Example(s):



Cash sitting in a chair on the throat of a suspect, despite him having already asked for an attorney.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (2 votes)

Example of:

Main / JackBauerInterrogationTechnique

Media sources: