Ray Tango (Sylvester Stallone) and Gabriel Cash (Kurt Russell) are hardnosed detectives who have constantly been in the news for heckling drug kingpin Yves Perret (Jack Palance), within the legal ambit, performing separately in different zones. They come face to face after a tip off that a drug deal is going to take place at an unspecified location one night. The two reach the place, only to discover the presence of a corpse, already wire taped; the FBI arrives on the crime scene, puts two and two together, and arrests the detectives.
The Federal Agents finds Cash’s weapon and makes the arrest as the evidence against the two is incriminating - especially with an audio tape given to Agent Wyler (Lewis Arquette) by one of Perret’s stooges, a guy called Requin (Brion James). In the tape, when presented in court, it is heard that Detective Gabriel Cash and Detective Tango are heard to be discussing the purchase of narcotics, and the sound of the shooting of the man (an FBI Agent, nonetheless) are both clear and evident. Tango and Cash are transported to a maximum security prison, after they plead to lesser charges. They are to be housed with the many hardened criminals they themselves have arrested in the past - and the men are waiting for their pound of flesh each (it can be pretty difficult for policemen who have been sentenced and sent to jail)!
Obviously, not ones to lose the chance of getting even with their enemies, the prisoners, led by Requin, beat the duo up, till the fighting is disrupted by the assistant prison warden Matt Sokowski (who was also Cash’s commanding officer at one point in time). Matt is understanding, and knows that the men will come after the duo again, and might end up killing them this time - he suggests they hatch a plan to escape – Tango does not acquiesce and refuses to go along with the plan; he is certain that they would not be successful. Cash, however, tries to make a run for it, in the chaos that ensues; the prisoners murder Matt and are baying for Cash’s blood as well. Luckily, Ray Tango comes to his rescue and they manage to escape the prison.
Once safe and away from the prison, they part ways, but not before Ray tells Gabriel that should he need him, he must go to the Cleopatra Club and ask for Katherine. They now make certain to bring to task the guys who framed them - Requin tops the list, of course! When they catch up with him, Agent Wyler admits that he was hand-in-glove with Perret, and that the court audio expert Skinner (Michael Jetter) is also in on the deal with the drug lord, and had engineered the tape to trap the detectives. Cash meets Kiki, aka Katherine Tango, Ray’s sister, who helps him escape the Cleopatra when police raids the premises.
Tango and Cash meet up at Kiki’s house, and Captain Schroeder (Geoffrey Lewis), Tango’s commanding officer, gives them twenty four hours to trace Requin and sort him out. Owen (Michael J.Pollard) who is a weapons expert, arms the two detectives with a high assault vehicle, they trash Perret’s headquarters, unaware that the villain has abducted Kiki and that the building where he is holding her hostage will self destruct with the timer he has; Tango and Cash beat up Requin and his fellow goon, and shoot Perret as he holds a knife to Kiki, the trio escapes, and the building crashes down after them.
Like almost every film of his, critical appreciation always eludes Stallone, but the fans keep proving the critics wrong! Tango and Cash is yet another example of Sylvester’s raging success during that phase and his appeal with audiences worldwide.