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Film review: Tango & Cash

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It's hard to believe Sylvester Stallone could make a prison picture dumber than "Lock Up." It's even harder to believe it could be released in the same year.

But here it is: "Tango & Cash." (Catchy title, eh?)

Actually, this is a "Lethal Weapon" clone that may be significant as one of only two buddy cop pictures Stallone has done. The other one, "Nighthawks," is one of his best films, but "Tango & Cash" ranks — and I do mean ranks — as one of his worst.

Stallone is Tango and Kurt Russell is Cash. Both are Los Angeles cops, but they are oil-and-water personalities. Tango is a yuppie, from his nattily tailored attire to his round specs to his offhand interest in Wall Street. Cash is a slob, from his messy apartment to his disregard for police procedure to his long, disheveled hair.

The only things they have in common are enormous biceps, perfect aim and penchants for snappy patter. They toss quips back and forth as if they really believe they are substitutes for dialogue.

But the script is unbelievable. I'm not talking about an occasional action scene that goes over the top. I'm talking about ridiculous beyond belief from front to back.

And the film wastes no time letting us know we're in stupid stunt land. In the very first scene Stallone stands in front of a truck and fires at the driver and his cohort in the passenger seat. When the brakes are applied the truck stops abruptly and the two crooks go flying through the windshield, landing directly in front of Stallone. How's that for a seatbelt commercial?

Then there's the setup. Tango and Cash are framed by mobster kingpin Jack Palance, apparently doing a parody of his "Batman" character (he even has a video-laden hideout that looks like the Bat-cave). But Tango and Cash accept a plea bargain that will give them 18 months in a minimum-security prison.

Instead, however, they find themselves in a maximum-security torture chamber where prisoners they have put away try to electrocute them. Tango and Cash eventually escape — surprise, surprise — and track down those who framed them, but the film gets progressively more ludicrous until the audience begins laughing out loud. And not at the jokes.

Besides owing much to "Lethal Weapon," "Indiana Jones" and "Batman," there's even a James Bond ripoff. According to this film the Los Angeles police force has its own weapons development section, headed by this film's idea of Q, a wacko played by Michael J. Pollard who invents bizarre weaponry, such as a guard dog with a gun in its mouth. He provides Tango and Cash with an armored vehicle that makes the Aston-Martin in "Goldfinger" look like a toy.

If all of this isn't enough, Stallone even makes a crude joke putting down his own "Rambo" character.

Movies like this are annoying because they seem to be saying that the audience is made up of morons. I don't know about you, but I'm tired of Hollywood assuming we're all so dumb we'll will accept anything in the movies, regardless of how silly or contrived it is.

"Tango & Cash" is a sad sendoff as the last film to open in 1989.

Whatever 1990 brings has to be better.

"Tango & Cash" is rated R for considerable violence, profanity and several nude scenes, including one with Stallone and Russell on the way to the prison shower.