Film Review: ‘Daughter of the Wolf’

Family strife meets fisticuffs and firefights in this female-led, capably-crafted actioner.

David Hackl
Gina Carano, Richard Dreyfuss, Brendan Fehr, Anton Gillis-Adelman.
Release Date:
Jun 14, 2019

Rated R  Running time: ­­­­­88 MIN.

A child taken hostage. A parent desperate to rescue her child from a shadowy gang. A pack of wolves hunting hikers in the frigid wilderness. While these ingredients sound like a cinematic mash-up of Liam Neeson’s “Taken” and “The Grey,” director David Hackl’s action-thriller “Daughter of the Wolf” captures something unique: the tenacious drive of a mother battling her way through criminals and the cold to rescue her teen son from a madman. Despite never quite reaching the fevered pitch of those aforementioned thrillers, the filmmakers adeptly blur the lines between the heroes and anti-heroes, constructing a dynamic, character-driven portrait of rage and redemption.

Ex-military specialist Clair Hamilton (Gina Carano) is going through a rough patch. The stench of death has followed her through two tours in the Middle East and now back at home. Her father recently passed away and her teen son Charlie (Anton Gillis-Adelman) is withdrawing from her affections, blaming her for their fractured relationship. Years prior, she abandoned him to the care of her dad so she could re-enlist and return to the combat zone — her way of dealing with the inconsolable grief of losing Charlie’s father in a roadside bombing. She’s returned for a reckoning and reconciliation, shouldering the guilt of leaving her son behind. However, right as the pair attempt to mend these familial fissures, Charlie is kidnapped by thugs led by the ruthless “Father” (Richard Dreyfuss) and held for ransom — a ransom that’s not merely monetary.

Father had a long-standing grudge against Clair’s dad, and he’s determined to make Clair pay for her dad’s actions, robbing her of everything she holds dear. Only he can’t kill her spirit, which is as ferocious as the pack of wolves protecting her and stalking her kid’s captors. Clair’s inner fire is ignited as she fights through the harsh cold snap of winter. She surprisingly finds a compassionate connection with a henchman she maimed, Larsen (Brendan Fehr), whose insight into these tenuous circumstances proves crucial to their survival.

Hackl’s direction and Nika Agiashvili’s writing is fairly astute. Sure, some of Carano’s dialogue is wooden. The groan-inducing line, “You brought this to my doorstep,” is as flat as the frozen lake she falls through at one point. Yet Hackl knows how to harness Carano’s volatile beauty and fierce physicality to fire up Clair’s frustrations and fearlessness during the character-driven action sequences. Dreyfuss’ performance occasionally borders on hammy. During the climax, he delivers a committed, but unhinged and wheezy Nick Nolte impression. And portions of the fight choreography are iffy, specifically one sequence involving Carano playing chicken with a snowmobile.

That said, the filmmakers wisely use the environment to augment the narrative’s stronger aspects. Themes of revenge, rebirth and restitution are woven into the fabric with a light touch. The backdrop of a chilly Canadian winter works in tandem with the character’s cold vengeance. Hackl and company coax these motivating traits out through nuance, letting the audience extrapolate the inner workings of the characters’ psyches. Parent-child relationships are deconstructed and examined through Clair and Charlie’s blood ties, but also through the surrogate father-son bond between Larsen and Father.

Setting this thematically potent picture in the harsh wilderness provides a fascinating juxtaposition of the gritty nature of the story and mother nature’s dangerous splendor. Hackl and cinematographer Mark Dobrescu deliver a sleek, superb vision. Slick drone shots take the “God’s eye” perspective, judging these characters’ actions and consequences. With its massive towering trees, the forest represents the emotional prison in which the various characters have locked themselves. Plus, the snow adds a crisp white patina, imbuing the picture with a cool, aesthetically arresting atmosphere.

In an era of the “Strong Female Character,” Hackl and Agiashvili’s iteration blessedly doesn’t rely on lazy screenwriting shorthand, nor does it pander to feminism with a simple gender-swap in its female-centered feature. These filmmakers are eager to explore the delicate facets of a forceful, fully-formed woman, and they do so with imagery that’s both stunning and subtle.

Film Review: ‘Daughter of the Wolf’

Reviewed online, Los Angeles, June 12, 2019. MPAA Rating: R. Running time: ­­­­­88 MIN.

Production: A Vertical Entertainment release of a QME Entertainment, Minds Eye Entertainment, Falconer Pictures production, in association with VMI Worldwide, Invico Captial, The FYZZ, Petra Pictures. Producers: Danielle Masters, Benjamin DeWalt, Kevin DeWalt, Douglas Falconer. Executive producers: Allison Taylor, Jason Brooks, Robert Jones, Charles Auty, Marcel Leblanc, Robert B. Bricker, Charles Saikaley, Tamer Abaza, Andre Relis.

Crew: Director: David Hackl. Screenplay: Nika Agiashvili. Camera (color, widescreen): Mark Dobrescu. Editor: Jackie Dzuba. Music: Jeff Toyne.

With: Gina Carano, Richard Dreyfuss, Brendan Fehr, Anton Gillis-Adelman.

More Film

  • Sylvester Stallone Variety Cover story

    Sylvester Stallone Feels Robbed of an Ownership Stake in 'Rocky': 'I Was Furious'

    Sylvester Stallone shares an uncanny, symbiotic connection with Rocky, the underdog boxer character he created four decades ago — a kindred spirit who served as his creative muse in spawning one of Hollywood’s most successful film franchises. In his long career Stallone also played another memorable screen role — John Rambo — but Rocky was [...]

  • Beware of Children

    First Trailer Released for Venice Days Entry 'Beware of Children' (EXCLUSIVE)

    Variety has been given exclusive access to the first trailer for Dag Johan Haugeruds’ politically and socially charged drama “Beware of Children,” which premieres as part of the Venice Film Festival’s Venice Days section. The pic, which is being sold at Venice by Picture Tree Intl., features the dramatic aftermath of a tragic incident in [...]

  • The Tower animated film about Palestinians

    ‘The Tower’ Animation Wins Japan's Skip City Festival

    “The Tower,” Mats Grorud’s animation about the plight of the Palestinians, as viewed through the eyes of an 11-year-old girl in Beirut, won the grand prize in the international competition at the 16th edition of Skip City International D-Cinema Festival. The film also scooped the section’s audience award. The Skip City festival, which launched in [...]

  • For web story

    Transgender Immigrant Pic 'Lingua Franca,' Thriller 'Only Beasts' to Bow at Venice Days

    New York-based Filipina filmmaker Isabel Sandoval’s “Lingua Franca,” about a transgender immigrant, is among 11 competition entries, all world premieres, that will launch from the Venice Film Festival’s independently run Venice Days section. The only U.S. entry set to compete in the section modeled on Cannes’ Directors’ Fortnight, “Lingua Franca” is Sandoval’s third work. It [...]

  • Female-Led and LGBTQ Narratives Win Big

    Female-Led and LGBTQ Narratives Win Big At Durban FilmMart Awards

    DURBAN–Female-driven narratives and daring portraits of queer culture around the continent were the big winners at this year’s Durban FilmMart (DFM), the industry program of the Durban Intl. Film Festival, which handed out awards at a ceremony Monday night at the Southern Sun Maharani Hotel. Among the prize-winners were the story of a Zimbabwean woman [...]

  • Oscar Nominations Reactions Phyllis Nagy

    Screenwriter Phyllis Nagy Runs for Writers Guild Presidency, Citing Agency Stalemate

    Oscar-nominated screenwriter Phyllis Nagy is challenging Writers Guild of America West’s incumbent president David Goodman, citing his handling of the bitter stalemate between the WGA and Hollywood agents. Nagy announced her candidacy online Monday night, a day before the deadline for filing. She made the announcement  in a private online group as part of Writers for [...]

  • Klaudia-Reynicke

    Locarno: Summerside Picks Up ‘Love Me Tender’ (EXCLUSIVE)

    Rome-based Summerside Intl. has acquired international sales rights to Klaudia Reynicke’s “Love Me Tender.” The second feature from Peru-born and Switzerland-based filmmaker will receive its world premiere at the Locarno Festival in its Filmmakers of the Present competition, which focuses on first and second features. More Reviews Concert Review: Queen and Adam Lambert Capitalize on [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content