Fathers make life difficult for Kate Beckinsale as The Prisoner’s Daughter. Her own dad Max, played by Brian Cox, spent little time at home, sometimes at work on his job as a mob enforcer and later in prison because of that career. Meanwhile, her son’s dad, played by Tyson Ritter, lives in a squatters’ camp stoned out of his mind in between music gigs. Screenwriter Mark Bacci gives his heroine an out: diagnosed with cancer that will kill him within months, Max can live out his life with her, bringing along some desperately needed cash. The set up provides absorbing family dynamics involving high-level emotions, among them resentment, guilt, and forgiveness. Director Catherine Hardwicke guides her cast well in creating these feelings, though she starts in a good place with seasoned performers who know their business. Cox, hot off the Succession series, never fails at putting the right spin on a character, whether in impassioned speech or nuanced facial flick. Beckinsale retreats from her Underworld actioners and succeeds as a woman trying to make everyday life work. Ritter, a member of the real-life All American Rejects band, looks and acts the part of a rocker, while young Christopher Convery comes off believably though he deals with a movie cliché role, the kid smart beyond his years. Ghostbuster Ernie Hudson adds warmth and appeal to the mix, making The Prisoner’s Daughter less edgy than Hardwicke’s breakthrough film Thirteen.
Catching the underside of communities, Hardwicke effectively uses backstreet locations around Las Vegas, giving a gritty sensation to a story that seeks a softer world where hope and redemption exist.