LAST RAMPAGE: THE ESCAPE OF GARY TISON

 

The Gary Tison killing spree in 1978 culminated a life of murderous crime by a guy who was originally imprisoned for passing a bad check in 1968. He killed a guard on his way to prison and escaped. He was captured and then sentenced for murder. He had so many attempts at escape that resulted in him nevr having a chance at parole. His only solution: break out of prison.

 

His last and final escape attempt succeeded - to a certain degree - when he enlisted the aid of his three sons Ricky, Donald and Raymond during a family visit. They helped him and his cellmate Randy Greenwalt to literally walk right out of the Arizona State Penitentiary. After the breakout, they go on an interstate killing spree that lasted a few days.

The story is retold by director Dwight Little who biggest claim to fame has been "Free Willy 2: The Adventure Home" and "Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers". He cast Robert Patrick in the lead as Gary Tison with a support cast including Bruce Davidson as Cooper - the lawman chasing him. The sons are played by Casey Thomas Brown (Ray), Alex MacNicoll (Donnie) and Jason James Richter (Brawley?) while Greenwalt is played by Chris Browning.

 

The story pretty much follows the version presented by former University of Arizona professor James W. Clarke in his book of the same title. The only embellishment is with the story of Tison's with Dorothy (played by Heather Graham). The film has her as a deranged Bible thumper who can't see the killer in her husband.

 

Tison leads his gang of kinfolk out of the prison and would have made a clean getaway to Mexico had it not been for the poor choices in vehicles. Their getaway car, a Lincoln Continental got a flat tire with no spare. This forced them to hijack a car with Donna and John Lyons (Michele Martin and Garrett Hines) with their son and another adult. They all got slaughtered by Tison and Greenwalt.

 

They replace that perfectly good car with a stolen pick-up truck with a bad transmission that breaks down. This forces them to hijack yet another car, killing those occupants as well. Only the eldest son Donald opposes all the killing, but the other brothers just do what their father says. And Gary says a lot; a lot that shows he doesn't trust anyone, including his sons.

 

Patrick is an old hand at playing the bad guy, he was the relentless T-1000 in "Terminator 2: Judgement Day" and has a ton of bad guy/tough guy credits to his name. Most of the other roles are dutifully dramatized though the character played by Molly C. Quinn doesn't fit nor add anything to the film. It is always good to see veteran actor Bruce Davidson get some screen time; his career extends all the way back to his lead in the film "Willard" in 1971. Little keeps the action moving and gritty with a runtime of around 90-minutes. Cameraman Rafael Leyva keeps the photography gritty but not too bloody, considering...

 

This is the second time a film has been made about Tison. Robert Mitchum played him in the 1983 made for TV "A Killer in the Family" with James Spader.

 

"Last Rampage: The Escape of Gary Tison" is a fairly amusing prison break/crime drama that depicts a murderous event that few outside of Arizona would remember. Robert Patrick isn't T-100, but he knocks down the bad guy role effectively.   -- GEOFF BURTON

 

GEOFF BURTON

 

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