The “Face of Women’s MMA,” Gina Carano’s career in Hollywood took off (sort of) in 2011 when Steven Soderbergh picked her as lead Mallory Kane for his stylish action flick Haywire. Stints in blockbusters Fast & Furious 6 and Deadpool followed, as well as a bunch of lower-budget fare (see—or don’t: In the Blood and Kickboxer: Vengeance). David Hackl’s follow-up to his tepid John Travolta-starrer Life on the Line, titled Daughter of the Wolf, falls squarely in the latter category: a by-the-numbers survival thriller that fails to showcase Carano’s talents, be it acting or fighting.
Carano plays Clair Hamilton, a military veteran pursuing her son’s kidnappers through frosty, presumably Canadian woods. The film doesn’t bother with so much as a semblance of character development, lurching right into a bloody opening stand-off, wherein Clair gets f**k-all for delivering the wanted cash to a bunch of hicks. Understandably pissed off, she chases them in her car, killing all but one: yellow-toothed scoundrel with a heart of gold, Larsen (Brendan Fehr). In the meantime, her son Charlie (Anton Gillis-Adelman) is held hostage by the gang leader, a crotchety weasel known simply as Father (Richard Dreyfuss), who has history with Clair’s dad. As Clair and Larsen bond over campfires, Father protects her son from the endless packs of wolves. This all leads to – deep breath – a showdown at Father’s remote cabin, a snowmobile chase, a showdown by a waterfall, and then another showdown back at the cabin.
“…a military veteran pursuing her son’s kidnappers through frosty, presumably Canadian woods.”
Throughout all those showdowns, Carano barely throws a punch, let alone exhibit the skills that catapulted her to fame in the first place. That would be fine if her acting compensated for the lack of scuffles, but sadly the actress operates in blank mode. Her robot-like character is invincible: she survives a car crash, a plunge into sub-zero waters, a nosedive off a cliff, and another of the aforementioned icy waterfall (props to the location scouting team, bee tee dubs). In stark contrast to the vacuum that is her performance, Dreyfuss – bless the legend’s heart – hams it up to no end. “You a proud one, ain’t ya, boy?” he snarls to Charlie, rasping, out of breath; I couldn’t help but imagine his character, fleshed out, in a better, knowingly campy film.
Aside from the indestructible hero, Hackl seems to resort to every cliché in the book: cars explode minutes after flipping over; soft-focus, expository, piano-scored flashbacks reveal the past; frequent shots of Clair making eye contact with wolves represent their kinship, along with her canine instincts and dogged determination… It’s almost admirable how repetitive and straightforward the narrative is, Hackl and screenwriter Nika Agiashvili stripping away all the fat to a bare-bones plot that never generates momentum. If it strove for existential meaning, a-la the Coens’ No Country For Old Men (which was similarly stripped-down, yet subliminal, epic layers pulsated underneath the seemingly simple surface) – well, then, the attempt is laughable at best.
While decent in capable directorial hands – or as a supporting character – based on the evidence on display here, Carano doesn’t seem quite capable of carrying a film yet, let alone pull a dreary feature like Daughter of the Wolf out of the murk.
Daughter of the Wolf (2019) Directed by David Hackl. Written by Nika Agiashvili. Starring Gina Carano, Richard Dreyfuss, Brendan Fehr, Sydelle Noel, Brock Morgan, Stew McLean, Anton Gillis-Adelman.
4 out of 10
"…"...a showdown at Father’s remote cabin, a snowmobile chase, a showdown by a waterfall, and then another showdown back at the cabin.""