The initial takeaway from Last Rampage: The Escape of Gary Tison’s is that Robert Patrick (TV’s The Unit, Terminator 2: Judgment Day) has never been better. As the titular character, Patrick is a force of nature, but thankfully director Dwight Little (Murder at 1600, Marked for Death) has many more wonderful cards in the deck.
Based on James W. Clarke’s nonfiction novel, the narrative centers on how Tison (Robert Patrick) convinces his three sons (Alex MacNicoll, Casey Thomas Brown, Skyy Moore) into jailbreaking he and fellow inmate Randy Greenawalt (an equally menacing Chris Browning) from Arizona State prison. World weary but well meaning Sheriff Cooper (Bruce Davison) is tasked with bringing these men to justice with Heather Graham delivering standout work as Tison’s unpredictable wife Dorothy.
Tison and Greenawalt murdered a family and a honeymooning couple after their escape, and justice was eventually doled out (albeit in different forms) for their actions. If Little shot Last Rampage as a straight ahead true crime story sans an ounce of narrative fat, the flick still would have probably succeeded as a worthy watch. Instead, the movie adds an extra layer that I absolutely wasn’t expecting.
Heather Graham, who’s grown as an actress over the years (check out her work in the underrated drama At Any Price), delivers pitch perfect work as the eccentric Dorothy, a woman who initially met Tison during a prison visit. Dorothy’s burgeoning (and ultimately manipulative) friendship with a wide eyed reporter named Marisa (Molly C. Quinn) could have worked as its own standalone story, and these scenes give a welcome change of pace to the crimes that are afoot.
Film buffs who love late actor John Heard’s (Cutter’s Way) work will also be treated to one sequence in which he (Heard plays an irresponsible warden) has a meeting of the minds with Sheriff Cooper. Both Davison and Heard are masters at their craft, and watching them subtly go at it, even if it’s during one sequence, is one of the story’s high points.
Even though eldest son Donnie (Alex MacNicoll) has his share of confrontations with Greenawalt and his father, Tison’s children are understandably overshadowed by the ferocity of Patrick and Browning’s respective work. Even Marisa is overwhelmed by the advice doled out by Dorothy and eventually Sheriff Cooper, and though Last Rampage’s main thrust is to efficiently tell a crime story, it’s also a morality tale about the ties that bind.
The adults reign supreme in Last Rampage, and when their decision making doesn’t take humanity into consideration, the results are horrific. Little brings these actions to full bear in this pulp noirish storyline, and during the final moments of the film one character wonders if he has done enough. With electric work from an engaged ensemble, along with craftsman like direction from Little, Rampage: The Escape of Gary Tison is a movie that simply delivers. if you love hard driving potboilers that doesn’t pull its punches (and especially if you’re a fan of Robert Patrick’s work), this flick should do the trick.
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars (****)
Last Rampage is now out in select theaters and is available On Demand.