Tango & Cash is a 1989 American buddy cop action comedy film directed by Andrei Konchalovsky, although Albert Magnoli took over in the later stages of filming, and stars Sylvester Stallone, Kurt Russell, Jack Palance and Teri Hatcher. The film was released in the United States on December 22, 1989.

The film describes the struggle of Ray Tango and Gabriel Cash, two rival LAPD narcotics detectives, who are forced to work together after criminal mastermind, Yves Perret, frames them both for murder.


Beverly Hills LAPD Lieutenant Ray Tango (Sylvester Stallone) and Downtown Los Angeles Lieutenant Gabriel Cash (Kurt Russell) have earned themselves a reputation for disrupting crime lord Yves Perret's smuggling operation in their respective jurisdictions. One day, both of them are informed of a drug deal taking place later that night. Both detectives meet each other for the first time at the location, but discover a dead body that is wire-tapped before the FBI arrive and surround the duo. Agent Wyler (Lewis Arquette) finds Cash's backup Walter PPK pistol on the floor with a silencer attached and arrests both Cash and Tango. At their murder trial, Tango and Cash are incriminated by an audio tape, secretly given to Wyler by Perret's henchman Requin and verified in court by an audio expert, which appears to reveal them shooting the undercover FBI agent after discussing a drug purchase. They plead no contest to a lesser charge in exchange for reduced sentences in a minimum-security prison, but are transported to a maximum-security prison to be housed with many of the criminals they arrested in the past.

Once in prison, Tango and Cash are rousted from their bunks and tortured by Requin and a gang of prisoners until Matt Sokowski, the assistant warden and Cash's former commanding officer, rescues them. Sokowski recommends that they escape and provides them with a plan, but Tango refuses to go along with it. When Cash tries to escape, he finds Sokowski murdered and is attacked by prisoners. Tango rescues him and the duo escape. Once outside the prison walls, they proceed to go their separate ways when Tango tells Cash that should he need to contact him, he is to go to the Cleopatra Club and look for "Katherine."

The detectives then visit the witnesses who framed them in court. Wyler admits to Tango that Requin was in charge of the setup, and Cash discovers that Skinner, the audio expert, made the incriminating tape himself. Cash finds Katherine, who helps him escape the night club as police move in on him. Later that night, Tango reunites with Cash, who discovers that Katherine is Tango's younger sister. The duo are met at Katherine's house by Tango's commanding officer, Schroeder, who gives them Requin's address and tells them they have 24 hours to find out who Requin works for. Tango and Cash apprehend Requin and trick him into telling them Perret's name. Armed with a high-tech assault vehicle loaned to them by Cash's weapons expert friend Owen, the duo storm into Perret's headquarters to confront the crime lord. At this point, Perret, who has kidnapped Katherine, starts a timer that will trigger the building's automatic self-destruct procedure. After killing Perret's core security personnel, Tango and Cash are confronted by Requin, who is holding Katherine at knifepoint but throws her aside to fight the detectives hand-to-hand with the help of another henchman. The detectives defeat the two henchmen and when Perret appears, holding a gun to Katherine's head, they kill him and leave with Katherine just before the building explodes. Afterward, they joke half-seriously about Cash's desire to date Katherine before they have themselves vindicated the next day.


  • Sylvester Stallone as Lt. Ray Tango
  • Kurt Russell as Lt. Gabriel Cash
  • Teri Hatcher as Katherine "Kiki" Tango
  • Jack Palance as Yves Perret
  • Brion James as Requin
  • Geoffrey Lewis as Cpt. Schroeder (uncredited)
  • Eddie Bunker as Cpt. Holmes
  • James Hong as Quan
  • Marc Alaimo as Lopez
  • Michael J. Pollard as Owen
  • Robert Z'Dar as "The Jaw"
  • Lewis Arquette as Federal Agent Wyler
  • Roy Brocksmith as Federal Agent Davis
  • Richard Fancy as Nolan (Tango & Cash's Lawyer)
  • Michael Jeter as Skinner (the audio expert)
  • Clint Howard as "Slinky" (Tango's cellmate)
  • Benny Urquidez as Thug (uncredited)


The production was beset with problems from its very inception. Firstly, Patrick Swayze who was originally cast as Cash, dropped out and went to star in Road House (1989), then principal photography began without a completed script. Sylvester Stallone, infamous for his huge ego, had the original director of photography Barry Sonnenfeld fired because Stallone felt he wasn't being lit to satisfaction. Donald E. Thorin, who shot Stallone's earlier movie that year, Lock Up (1989), was Sonnenfeld's replacement. Then after nearly three months of filming director Andrei Konchalovsky was fired by producer Jon Peters in a dispute over the movie's ending, and was replaced with Albert Magnoli who filmed all the chase and fight scenes in the ending. Reportedly, executive producer Peter MacDonald who was also second unit director took over directing on the movie before Magnoli was brought in. A year earlier, MacDonald had to step in as a director for Stallone previous movie Rambo 3 after original director was fired by Stallone. In his 1999 book of memoirs, Elevating Deception, Konchalovsky says that the reason he was fired was because he and Stallone wanted to give the film a more serious tone and make it more realistic than the producers wanted, specially Jon Peters who kept pushing for the film to be goofier and campier, and as such, his relationship with Peters became untenable.

Another reason why he was fired is because he wouldn't agree to what he refers to as the "increasingly insane" demands that Peters had. Konchalovsky said that he was initially hired to make a buddy cop movie with plenty of humor, but Peters basically wanted to turn it into a spoof, without any semblance of seriousness, and Konchalovsky refused. Essentially, Konchalovsky argues that they were simply trying to make two different movies, and when Peters realized he couldn't bend Konchalovsky to his will, he fired him. According to Brion James (in a 1999 interview with Louis Paul), the film was in disarray from the very beginning and by the half way stage of the shoot, when movie was several months over schedule, Peters and Konchalovsky were no longer speaking. James agrees that the official reason Konchalovsky was fired was because of the budget, but he also says that going over-budget was not Konchalovsky's fault, and that Konchalovsky did not deserve to be fired. Konchalovsky however had nothing but praise for Sylvester Stallone, and both he and supporting actor Brion James said that despite his ego and decision to fire original DP and the fact that he had a hand in Konchalovsky's firing, Stallone was the one person who held the project together, and that he was a constant voice of reason on an increasingly chaotic set (this echoes the comments Ric Waite made regarding what working with Stallone was like during Cobra, where Waite pointedly criticized Stallone's on-set behavior as the reason the movie was taking too long to film and said the star had an overdone ego, but also said Stallone was great to work with and was Cobra's de facto director because George P. Cosmatos was simply not good at filmmaking). According to Konchalovsky, by the end of principal photography, Stallone was working unofficially as producer, director and writer, as well as star, and Konchalovsky believes that had it not been for Stallone, Peters would have fired him much sooner than he did. Production sources said that Konchalovsky had been given impossible scheduling demands and was then made the scapegoat when he fell behind.

There was also a legal battle between producers Peter Guber and Jon Peters and Warner Bros. studio. Guber and Peters complained in Los Angeles Superior Court that Warner had replaced them on the project and, over Peters' objections, "advanced the release date of the film by many months."

Movie went into production in June, directors were changed in late August, and after principal photography was finished in September replacement director Magnoli called everyone back to the set for two more weeks of additional re-shoots which included filming completely new opening sequence. Filming was finally finished on October 20, 1989, eight weeks before its original scheduled theatrical opening in 1600 theatres across the United States. Movie was racing to make its December 15 release but due to the Warner Bros. studio's complaints on every different cut that was edited before they approved final (theatrical) version it barely made the deadline and ended up being shipped to theaters as "wet prints" - an industry term meaning that it was just barely completed before its release date.

Because Warner Bros. didn't want to risk getting into same problems with the MPAA like they did with their previous Stallone movie Cobra (1986 film), they ordered the editors to do some cuts on death scenes in last part of the movie while it was being re-edited, which is why there are lot of jumps cuts every time when somebody gets shot in the scene.

Behind the scenes problems which included filming, script changes, and later constant cuts and re-editing of the movie were so big and bad that one of the more experienced crew members said in interview; "This was the worst-organized, most poorly prepared film I've ever been on in my life. From the first day we started, no one knew what the hell anyone was doing." Same crew member also mentioned some reasons why director Konchalovsky was fired; "He found himself in over his head. There were scenes scheduled for three days that were so complicated they should have been scheduled for six or seven days. They were trying to do a 22-week movie in 11 weeks."

The film ultimately missed the budget by over $20 million, and had to be completely re-edited by editor Stuart Baird prior to its theatrical release. Tango & Cash was one of many films to be turned over to Baird, who came onto the project as an editing "doctor" when studios such as Warner Bros. were displeased with the first cut turned in by the filmmakers. Baird was also called in by Warner Bros to re-edit another Stallone action movie Demolition Man (1993) for the same reasons. After Baird was brought in by Warner Brothers to literally save the movie in editing room, it was he who hired Hubert de La Bouillerie to edit the film and Harold Faltermeyer and Gary Chang to compose the music. Chang provided additional music near the ending of the movie because Faltermeyer could not return to re-score the final reel of the film as it was constantly being edited because Warner Bros. kept complaining on cut after cut of it. Because of the massive re-editing, some plot parts and even some action scenes were deleted.

The theatrical trailer was made by using the footage and scenes from one of the earlier cuts of the movie. This is why it shows some deleted and alternate scenes which were changed or cut from the movie during the re-editing; alternate cut of the scene where Tango and Cash first meet in warehouse, alternate cut of shower scene between Tango and Cash, deleted or alternate fight scene between Cash and Chinese assassin during which Cash says "I hate you karate guys", and a deleted scene in which Tango is reading the newspapers and then pulls out Spas 12 shotgun at someone and shoots at some car with it. The trailer also shows extra shots from some other scenes.

In 1999 interview with Louis Paul at the Chiller Theatre Convention, Brion James said this about working on Tango & Cash and production problems that movie had;

BJ: TANGO AND CASH, I had two scenes when I started the film. Konchalavsky wanted to work with me for years, he worked for Cannon, they couldn't pay me, so I couldn't work for them. He wanted me to work with him on RUNAWAY TRAIN. Finally, I get to work with him and he calls me in and I meet Stallone and Russell and they say yeah, he's great. I just had two scenes with these guys, they chase me around, and I get beat up and that's it. So, I get there and I'm acting with Stallone and made my character have a cockney accent just to add something . I said I'm in a movie with all of these guys, how am I going to chew the scenery with all of these fuckers? So, I created the cockney, I'm not just another hit man from Cleveland. They loved it. They played off of it, they got into it. So Stallone started re-writing the script, the script wasn't really ready, but they were there to go, so when you got to go, you go. The script was ready, and when it was not, he would fix it. The film was twenty million dollars over budget and I wound up being on the film for fourteen weeks. My part went from a few days, to much bigger. So, I became the main bad guy, and not Jack Palance.

LP: Konchalavsky lost that picture, didn't he?

BJ: He did a great job, but Sly got him fired. Sly is very protective about his film. He got his own DP in, and the film went twenty million dollars over budget. So the studio had to justify it, and fired him, saying it was the director's fault. It wasn't his fault. They didn't have a script. I was even re-writing at the end of the day, over and over. They only had three weeks left and they bought in Albert Magnoli. He did rock videos and a Prince movie (PURPLE RAIN). They gave this guy three quarters of a million dollars to do three weeks. By the time he got there, I was like don't talk to me, stay back. I knew this character for weeks, I know what I'm doing. It wound up being a great film, that eventually made a lot of money. Its one of the biggest pirated video in the history of Russia. There were 80,000 pirated copies. Warner Bros. was crazy not to market it properly, but that film was huge. I went to the Ukraine when I was shooting another film, and I was mobbed. I was in the Black Sea and I had no idea that people even knew who I was.


  • "Best of What I Got" - Bad English
  • "Let the Day Begin" - The Call
  • "Don't Go" - Yazoo
  • "Poison" - Alice Cooper
  • "It's No Crime" - Kenneth "Babyface" Edmonds
  • "Harlem Nocturne" - Darktown Strutters

The soundtrack was never released, as the songs were already released on the artists' albums.

The film score, which was composed by Harold Faltermeyer, was released for the first time on January 30, 2007 by La-La Land Records (LLLCD 1052) in 3000 Limited Sets.


Box office

Despite the film's troubled production Tango & Cash was a moderate box office success. The film opened on December 22, 1989 and was notably the last theatrically released American film of the 1980s. The movie grossed $6,628,918 from 1,409 theaters averaging $4,704 per theater and ranking #2 at the box office. The film ultimately earned $63,408,614 in the United States, above its $55 million production budget. The film also sold well on VHS. The movie was reviewed by Nathan Rabin for his column "Forgotbusters" at The Dissolve website, which consists of Rabin analyzing how movies that were amongst the top 25 grossing titles of a given year have not had lasting cultural impact, and Rabin said that there was more affection and attention to "Tango & Cash" than he had expected, based on feeback from people who'd seen the movie since 1990.

Critical response

The film received negative reviews. One bad review came from The New York Times, which criticized the plot, the screenplay, and the acting. The movie currently has a score of 34% on Rotten Tomatoes based on 41 reviews with an average rating of 4.3 out of 10. The critical consensus states: "Brutally violent and punishingly dull, this cookie-cutter buddy cop thriller isn't even fun enough to reach 'so bad it's good' status".

Tango & Cash was also nominated for three Golden Raspberry Awards for Worst Actor (Sylvester Stallone), Worst Supporting Actress (Kurt Russell in drag) and Worst Screenplay, but did not win any.


External links

  • Tango & Cash at the Internet Movie Database
  • Tango & Cash at AllMovie
  • Tango & Cash at Box Office Mojo
  • Tango & Cash at Rotten Tomatoes
  • The Life and Art of Vern Article; June 21, 2009

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