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'Tango and Cash' (R)

By Rita Kempley
Washington Post Staff Writer
December 22, 1989

Kurt Russell in drag, a slickery shower scene, come-hither repartee -- all the suppressed homosexuality of the buddy movie genre surfaces in Sylvester Stallone's latest sadomasochistic man thing. "Tango & Cash" is more like "My Beautiful Laundrette" in the closet than it is a bad ripoff of "Lethal Weapon."

Stallone is Ray Tango, a dandified vice cop who enjoys a cross-town rivalry with Russell's reckless detective, Gabe Cash. Framed by an international crime lord, Yves Perret (Jack Palance), the buddies are convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to 18 months in a minimum-security prison. But they are waylaid by Perret's thugs and taken instead to the Big House.

The first thing they do is strip buck naked and scamper off to the shower -- the last place most of us would head in a maximum-security prison. When Cash bends over to pick up the soap, Tango fears for his honor. "Don't flatter yourself, Peewee," snorts Cash, his long blond hair a halo of water droplets. "Minnie Mouse," Tango flings back. The banter, the way they tease and fuss and proudly jut their stuff, recalls a couple of courting bowling pins.

Dressed in their matching T-shirts and prison fatigues, the heroes are later tortured by the rest of the prison population. Tastefully lacerated and draped in chains, Tango and Cash are hung from the ceiling and repeatedly electrified. Many other beatings are administered and many beef-a-roni bons mots exchanged as the tedious adventure proceeds.

"How come your gun's bigger than my gun, Peewee?" asks Cash. "Genetics," says Tango as the pair drive a big van with a gun mount, their "RV from hell," into the compound held by Perret and his evil minions. But Perret has one more card up his sleeve -- Tango's beautiful sister (Teri Hatcher).

Russian Andrei Konchalovsky, who comes from the Soviet tractor school of action comedy, directs from a pathetically juvenile screenplay by Randy Feldman of "Man to Man" and "The Manly Touch." Russell is an inoffensive Mel Gibson clone here. But Stallone is an unlovable lummox, preposterous because he takes himself so seriously. Even when he attempts to laugh at himself, his quips fall like clods on coffins. His bravery is braggadocio.

Let's hope this will be the last of Tango.

Tango & Cash is rated R.

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