Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Daughter of the Wolf: Gina Carano Faces Wolves and Richard Dreyfuss

Wolves hunt in packs. MMA stars battle mano a mano or in cages, whereas cranky old people fight with everybody. All three will go at each other in David Hackl’s wilderness-revenge genre-outing, Daughter of the Wolf, which opens this Friday in Brooklyn.

Sometime back in the day, Clair Hamilton’s father did wrong by the psychotic backwoods clan patriarch known simply as “Father,” so his family of dubiously adopted rejects has kidnapped her boring pre-teen son Charlie, demanding her secret cash inheritance as ransom. Of course, Father has no intention of returning the surly boy. However, a Special Forces veteran like Hamilton will not be a pushover. With the reluctant help of one of Father’s “sons,” Hamilton will track the vengeful old codger and her son, while hungry, baying wolves circle both parties.

Admittedly, Hackl is no Caroll Ballard (and this film is no Never Cry Wolf), but Into the Grizzly Maze was a seriously entertaining B-movie, so it is rather disappointing Daughter does not have similar energy and attitude. Even with a credible action lead like Gina Carano, the film mostly plods along lifelessly. The tiresome semi-estranged mother-son relationship certainly does not help. There are also plenty of questionable motivations and decision-making that undermine audience’s willingness to suspend disbelief.

Carano has chops and decent screen presence, but Daughter is definitely a step backwards for her. As Father, Richard Dreyfuss (the Oscar-winning star of Goodbye Girl and Jaws) chews more scenery than Pac-Man, but the tone of his performance is more strident than entertaining. Beyond the two marquee antagonists, it is rather difficult to tell unshaven, greasy-haired thugs apart from each other.

Frankly, most viewers will root for the wolves. They are probably the most sympathetic characters. Hackl and the animal-wrangling team stage some reasonably impressive wolf-pack attacks, but that is about all the film has going for it.

Even though Carano is the lead and on-screen most of the time, Daughter makes poor use of her martial arts skills, which is really its biggest scene. As a result, it is far likelier to frustrate her fans, rather than satisfying them. Mostly disappointing, Daughter of the Wolf opens Friday (6/14) in Brooklyn, at the Kent Theatre.