I couldn't make it to the first film, Cobra. That meant I missed out on the glorious 35mm sight of Sly using scissors to cut into some cold pizza. It's too bad, because when I arrived, the end credits were rolling and the packed house was flying high on the experience of watching Stallone at his best/worst. I noticed the sound mix was done using something called Eagle Sound, which upon quick Googling I found out was another name for Ultra Stereo. That was odd; growing up, I figured Ultra Stereo was a poor man's Dolby because every low-budget straight-to-video/HBO premiere was mixed in it (either that or straight up mono) and Cobra was using it despite being a big budget studio flick. I don't know, it was just something I noticed.
Tango & Cash started, looking great for being only one of two existing prints, I believe (according to Phil Blankenship, who was programming a week of films, including the Stallone/Wynorski nights). "Let's do it" says Stallone before the opening credits, like he fuckin' knew your world was about to get rocked -- and boy does it ever. This is one of the most gleefully stupid movies I've ever seen (and I say this as a bona-fide idiot) but it's just so much goddamn fun. Damn near any 80's cop cliche is in this movie, and now in 2010 it plays like some kind of Edgar Wright homage/piss-take on the genre rather than just another example of it.
Jack Palance is the Big Boss baddie behind the whole deal, tired of these 2 supercops (played by Stallone and muthafuckin' Kurt Russell -- who got more applause in the credits than the dude whose night it was supposed to be) fucking up his money. So his plan is to frame them, put them in jail, get them killed, and rule the world or something. This guy is awesome, not just because he's Jack Palance, but because his crime lair contains a bar that also doubles as a giant rat maze. Motherfucker keeps his rats in a custom-made container, takes them out, fondles them, smells them, then shoves those motherfuckers into the rat maze/bar. Did he create the rat maze/bar specifically to use as a kind of model as to what he intends to do with T&G, like a Bond villain normally does when revealing his grand scheme, or did it just work out that way? Like, "Ahhhh -- I just came up with an IIIdea to fuck TAN-go & CASSSHHH, CASSSHHH & TAN-go good. Ahhhh yes, I can use these 2 ratssss to represent TAN-go & CASSSHHH, CASSSHHH & TAN-go!" It certainly would justify the money that went into the goddamn thing. I'm sure it was cool for a while to entertain his men at the bar, serving them up some cheap shit (never the top shelf liquor for these guys) and digging the sight of them looking down through the glass as these 2 furry rodents try to make their way across the maze/bar. Ok, enough about the rats.
Let's talk about Palance's 80's big multi-screen setup; it allows him to watch suspiciously workprint-quality multi-angled security footage of Tango & Cash barreling in with their RV from Hell. It also doubles as a camera phone, where he could have conversations with his fellow underworld types. That's a pretty funny scene, with the camera phone; on the other end of the line is fuckin' Lo Pan and some other dude who's been on Deep Space Nine like 17 different times or something, like the Star Trek equivalent to an SNL featured player. Anyway, these two are not so much standing as straight-up posing like some album cover for a one-hit wonder duo from the '80s. The best part is that the camera phone knows when to zoom in on a particular dude, depending on who's talking, even picking the right speed at which to zoom in. It senses the emotions I think, this emo-cam. The big multi-screen then gets all Circuit City demo on you when the self-destruct sequence goes off, along with a female countdown voice. I'm sure at least Stallone and Russell were laughing their asses off when they read that part in the script, right? They seem pretty self-aware, those two.
Stallone plays Tango, who is supposed to be this smart stockbroker-type who happens to be one of the 2 best cops in L.A. (Russell's character, Cash, is the other), and aside from wearing glasses and business suits, Sly kinda fruits up his voice a bit to complete the character. "It's a maaa-jor moving violation." You go, girlfriend. His sister is played by Teri Hatcher, back when she was at her hottest but way before she got kinda famous with Lois & Clark and then disappeared before becoming kinda famous again with that Old Bitchy Whore Housewives show or whatever the fuck that show is called. If it wasn't for the fact that talented motherfucker William H. Macy's talented motherfuckin' wife was in that motherfucker, that shit would be out-of-sight, out-of-mind for me.
Kurt Russell, on the other hand, just shows up as Kurt Russell, or at least that's how I like to think the dude really is; the kind of cool and funny dude you can have a beer and bro out with. I'd fuck it up, though; I'd get a little too drunk and start mouthing off about his step-daughter. I'd tell him she's pretty hot but I can't stand her and he'd kinda chuckle it off and I'd continue and once he realized I wasn't going to stop talking about Kate like that, he'd get all Snake Plissken on me or at the very least call his friend Ted Nugent and next thing you know I'm wondering why I'm on the floor in a pool of my own blood and why do I have arrows sticking out of my chest and most importantly WHY is a goofy fake-tooth smiling, draft-dodging yet flag-waving motherfucker in a snakeskin hat laughing over me.
The late great Brion James is here, doing an awesomely terrible British accent, like even he was like Fuck This Shit. I remember there was this rumor once that James served in Vietnam with Tim Thomerson, which I soooo wanted to be true. I love the idea that homeboy from Blade Runner and Jack Deth were in the shit together, shooting it out with Charlie. But do you know who WAS in the Nam? James Avery. You may know him as Uncle Phil from The Fresh Prince of Bel Air, but I prefer to remember him as the voice of Shredder from the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon, or better yet, that fuckin' awesome DMV examiner in License to Drive. You're lucky, Corey Haim -- the cup was EMPTY! Anyway, Brion James gets the fuckin' Lance Henriksen/Hard Target treatment at the end, which is a double spoiler and I apologize. But goddamn, this is a pretty good supporting cast; you got Michael J. Pollard, Edward Bunker, Juliette Lewis' father, Michael Jeter, Maniac Cop, Patricia Arquette's father, Clint Howard, the big fat black guy who was in a lot of flicks but I always remember him from Class Act, Shabba-Doo, the Rekall dude from Total Recall who gets his head blown off by Arnold, and Billy Tae-Bo Blanks.
Let me go back to one of the supporting actors, Edward Bunker. In addition to doing crime and doing time, in addition to helping introduce The Great Danny Trejo into our lives, he also co-wrote the screenplay to Runaway Train (one of the greatest fuckin' movies ever fuckin' made), which was directed by some Russian dude who wrote movies with Andrei Tarkovsky and bumped uglies with Shirley MacLaine. Well, the same Russkie directed this flick, or most of it anyway, and then I think he realized this shit was ridiculous and bolted or most likely the studio was all Fuck This Commie Cocksucker and gave him his walking papers back to mother Russia. I mean, it *was* the 80's -- we weren't supposed to trust those assholes. Better Dead Than Red. Whatever the case, they got the guy who directed Purple Rain to finish the job. You can tell for the most part, because half the movie has this gritty hand-held look to it and the acting is a little more, I don't know, real. The other half looks slicker and is played in a less serious tone.
Oh yeah, Phil had a story about Lo Pan; he said that he had invited him to do a Q&A of Big Trouble in Little China and I guess what happened what was that he arrived at the New Bev, saw the huge line going around the block, and I guess that spooked him out because he was like Fuck This and took off. Phil tried calling him again for another movie, I think, but Lo Pan won't return his calls. I don't get it, was he scared? Did he think the crowd was there to Tommy Wiseau his ass? Judging by the applause his appearance in Tango & Cash received, he has nothing to worry about, unless he's worried about getting his ass kissed. Whatever the case, fuck you Lo Pan. I remember once overhearing Phil telling someone near the concession stand something to the effect of One day when I'm retired I'll write a tell-all book about all the people who did Q&A's here, who the cool people were and who the dicks are. Holy shit, that would be awesome to read if he meant it.
It was a great experience watching this at the New Beverly, and I say this not only because I live a boring life, but because I doubt the audiences back in '89 were as into the movie as this audience was. Lots of cheering and even some occasional high-fives from the dudes a couple rows in front of me. Probably hipster ironic high-fives, but high-fives nonetheless. Of the jokes and one-liners in the film, half of them were lame and half were actually kind of funny. The audience laughed either way, regardless of intention/result, which says a lot about the movie. I saw this as a kid, and I never remembered it being this fucking ridiculous. Did 1989 adults find it this ridiculous? An older lady, I'm guessing late 50's/early 60's came in halfway through, I wanted to ask her what she made of all this -- then maybe I could've had a shot with her. You should be getting that young stuff, I'd tell her, even if that young stuff is fat and out-of-shape and of dirty Mexican ethnicity.
I'm gonna admit I genuinely dug the Harold Faltermeyer synth soundtrack, liked it even more than his Beverly Hills Cop work. Yeah, I said that shit. It really fits the big stupid 80's movie playing on screen. One of the high-fivers a couple rows ahead of me would bob his head dangerously hard during some of the tunes, like he wanted to see if he could dislodge his brain and have it make contact with the back of his head. Or maybe he succeeded and the high-fives and occasional yelled-out comment were the results of that. I speak with jealousy, of course; I wasn't about to high-five the guy next to me, as much as I wanted to. I need to make friends to high-five with, but then I fear that if you start with high-fives, then you probably move up to date raping, and I don't think I could live with myself if I went that way.
Surprisingly not as homoerotic as I
There was a lot of action, decent but nothing spectacular. The 80's were more quantity over quality when it came to the bang-bang, for the most part. It wasn't until the 90's when guys like John Woo came along and forced Hollywood to step up their game. Still, I enjoyed a lot of the old-school stunt work; when some motherfucker jumps through a second-story window and lands on the roof of a car, you see that he comes thisclose to missing it and eating shit. Or there's one shot where a bunch of police cars arrive at a drug bust, they speed right up to the camera before screeching to a halt, then the camera tilts up as a helicopter flies right over them. Man, now they would just CGI the copter. I guess you can't tell the difference anymore, but still, there's just an inherent coolness in knowing they really did that shit.
Cliffhanger was next. Saw this back in the summer of '93 but more importantly, I remember catching the trailer at the beginning of the year and thinking HOLY SHIT. It's still a great trailer, but back then, it was more than that, it was definitely something different from all those "In a world..." types. Ultimately, the trailer was a better movie than the actual movie, but it was still a fun watch with two killer sequences in particular.
The first is the opening scene, where Stallone's attempt at helping Michael Rooker's girlfriend out becomes just that, an attempt. That whole bit might be Renny Harlin's best work, and the only reason I'm not straight out calling it Renny Harlin's best work is because of a moment in The Adventures of Ford Fairlane where two girls tell Andrew Dice Clay's character that they just wanted to be held (he fucked 'em -- OHHHH!) and his response to that is "You got the bonus plan". Also, Harlin doesn't know when to quit sometimes; there's a horrifyingly beautiful shot in that scene that tells you everything. Harlin's not happy with that, though, this Finnish fuck then has to show you more and it's just fuckin' lame. Why am I tiptoeing around on eggshells trying not to spoil a scene from a 17 year old film, especially since my first sentence in this paragraph pretty much spoiled it? Whatever, I'm just saying we didn't need to see that stupid shot of her screaming all the way down while shit's all crazy rear-projected behind her. That wide shot with her falling away from the top of the frame with Sly watching helplessly was awesome, then it turned to self-parody.
The second killer sequence is the air-to-air heist. These fuckin' guys hook a line between a transport plane and a jet, and transfer 3 money cases. That's already incredibly impressive in itself, but even better is one of the best acts of motherfucking I've seen in a film. See, one of the treasury agents was shot up and left for dead, right? But he's not dead, he's still alive (barely) and he pretty much uses what's left of his energy to motherfuck the hell out of the guilty parties. He could've radioed for help or something, he could've told the co-pilot to put his hands up and make him fly that plane to safety (and maybe defuse that timebomb as well, if he knew about it) but no, this guy's like Fuck All You Motherfuckers I'm Dead Anyway and rains on their goddamn parade with some fuckin' nine-millimeters. He shoots the fuck out of the co-pilot, adds some proper ventilation to the jet, fucks up their heist, and goes out in an awesome fireball once the bomb does its thing.
Stallone is really good at playing a morose motherfucker. It's like he was able to see into his future to get the motivation for this performance, specifically 1998 to 2006, when he was damn near persona non grata. He's all sad and shit, trying to get Janine Turner to go back with him to Denver. By the way, I forgot what a cutie Janine Turner was. I don't know what the fuck happened. She was in a hit television show with that asshole who left TV to become a movie star and is currently back on TV (not David Caruso -- the other one), then she was in a hit movie with Sly, then next time I see her, she's in some indie movie with Pauly Shore. Nothing against Shore, I dig the Weasel for the most part (you broke my heart, Jury Duty), but I figured she was gonna have a lot more going for her in the future. I don't even know what she looks like now, she's probably all Teri Hatcher'd out or something.
So as mentioned earlier, James Gunn's arch-enemy, Michael Rooker is in this. Apparently this was Give The Co-Star Bigger Applause Than The Star Night, because homeboy got his during the opening credits, just like Kurt Russell did one movie ago. Again, no complaints here, it's not like they were applauding some undeserving piece of shit like Ashton Kutcher, they were giving it up for someone awesome. He does a great job, but there was one line delivery that made the audience laugh during a moment when they were supposed to do anything but. He's going off on Stallone, blaming him for his girlfriend's SPOILER death. He says something like "What the hell do you know about bad times, man?" and I think if he left off the "man" part (along with the Finger of Doom), he'd be OK. But he didn't, so we all laughed.
They say most movies are made in editing, and never has this felt more like the case than in this case. Having watched it this time, after reading the stories about poor test screenings and reshoots and MPAA motherfuckery, I can notice that shit a lot more now. It just seems a bit more choppy now than it did back in '93; the famous cliff jump in the trailer got fucked with in the final cut, lots of odd angles or cutaways when someone gets shot, or one part that has a 3-peated shot of Stallone shooting his bolt gun at someone (turns out originally Stallone shot the dude once and then Rooker shotgunned his ass, but maybe the audience/studio/Stallone wanted to see Sly being more proactive in the ownage department). Some kind soul had posted workprint footage of uncut bloody squib action on YouTube, until some unkind soul had it removed, but it sucks to know they cut a lot of that shit out because who knows what they did with that footage, nowadays it would be no big deal because they could Unrated DVD that shit, but back then, they probably just junked the trims.
I swear I once saw John Lithgow promoting this on The Arsenio Hall Show, calling it one of the best scripts he'd ever read. I don't want to argue the man's taste, considering he also said Hell Yes to the DePalma flicks as well as The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across The 8th Dimension, but still. Maybe he just saw the mustache-twirling potential in his role as the villainous Qualen; he's got some great lines/moments throughout, and I particularly dug the interplay between him and Rex Linn (who can shout Goddamn or variations thereof with the best of them).
That indie actor who was in Homicide: Life On The Street and some other guy show up playing really annoying EXXXXXTREEEEME sports types. They jump off the highest mountain peaks and parachute their way down, because it's awesome, I guess. We're supposed to feel for these guys at one point, but some people started applauding when one of them gets the machine-pistol treatment by the dude from Cool Runnings with the one name, like he's Prince or somebody. So the filmmakers may have failed with that attempt at likable characters. Ralph Waite shows up playing the Clu Gulager role as the elder rescue dude, and this guy is a twisted nut for sure; he paints crazy shit like a banana eating a monkey ("Nature in reverse") and apparently finds the fate of Rooker's girlfriend more than amusing. For real, check that opening scene out and notice the look on his face, he's like "Fall, bitch! MWAHAHAHAHAHA!". That was cold-blooded, Ralph Waite, cold as ice.
Then I went home. The End.