RIOT is a better-than-average exploitation picture with a script by Academy Award winner Poe that lifts it out of the "ordinary" status. If the warden and the 600 convicts seem authentic, that's because in real life they lived at the Arizona State Prison--although this story was based on
incidents that took place at a jail in Minnesota, as detailed in ex-con Elli's book. The warden, Eyman, is on vacation when Brown has a disagreement with a guard and is tossed into the isolation block. Hackman is already there, planning a jailbreak, and Brown becomes involved, albeit reluctantly.
The prisoners take a few guards as hostages and are now in control of a small section of the facility. Although Hackman tells the press that the riot is a result of poor treatment of the inmates, he is using the riot to cover the fact that there's a tunnel under the place, which he intends using
as his route to freedom. Hackman assumes leadership of the group and tells reporters for radio, TV, and newspapers about the alleged abuses. While negotiations are under way, the men get out of hand, there being no one in their small section to restrain them. Whiskey is produced, and drinking
begins, which leads to the gay prisoners' holding an all-out drag party. The stage is set for the redress of old grievances, and a kangaroo court is set up to mete out punishment to finks who have cooperated with authorities in the past. Carruthers is an insane Indian who has to be restrained by
Brown from killing the hostages. Eyman, hurrying back from his vacation, will accede to none of the prisoners' demands because he knows they are all a ruse. He is about to order the militia to go into the area and take no prisoners when Hackman preceives that Eyman won't tolerate the sham
negotiations any longer and decides to move fast. He leads a group of desperate men into the tunnel and then closes the entrance behind them to shield it from discovery by any of the other cons or the guards. As the escapees emerge from the tunnel, they are fired upon and bombarded with tear gas
by the soldiers. Brown, Hackman, and Carruthers have gas masks and manage to make their way to a guard tower through a large steam pipe. Carruthers, who thirsts for blood, kills the guard and tries to stab Brown, but Hackman stops him just in the nick of time. Hackman and Carruthers fight to the
finish, and Brown gets away. Nonstop sadism, gore, action, and foul language--but Poe's script makes a few points not usually seen in this type of movie. Righteous Brothers' Bill Medley sings passages of the title tune throughout, and inclusion of the old standard "Rag Mop" almost transforms this
movie into a prison musical. With every criminal inside seeming to be armed with something, RIOT mainly makes a case for being on the outside looking in.
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- Rating: R
- Review: RIOT is a better-than-average exploitation picture with a script by Academy Award winner Poe that lifts it out of the "ordinary" status. If the warden and the 600 convicts seem authentic, that's because in real life they lived at the Arizona State Prison--… (more)