THE STORY – A terminally ill prisoner gets to spend his final few weeks under house arrest with his estranged daughter and her 12-year-old son.
THE CAST – Brian Cox, Kate Beckinsale, Christopher Convery, Ernie Hudson & Tyson Ritter
THE TEAM – Catherine Hardwicke (Director) & Mark Bacci (Writer)
THE RUNNING TIME – 100 Minutes
One would think a stellar team – consisting of an Academy Award nominee, Emmy winner, and the director of one of the biggest teen franchises in history – would be the recipe for a successful family drama. It very well could be, except if the film is “Prisoner’s Daughter.”
Directed by Catherine Hardwicke and written by Mark Bacci, the 100-minute film is among one of the more cliche, uncreative, buzzword-written dramas you can find today. The film practically pulled every bad scenario out from a hat – from felons and deadbeat dads to financially insecure mothers and childhood bullying. That’s not a problem, but it’s overly conventional and lackluster story is. “Prisoner’s Daughter” doesn’t bother to give viewers anything new to see or experience – you’re guaranteed to have already seen this film in other iterations – and it appears as though the people behind it didn’t want to put in any effort to make a more compelling story. It’s a shame, though, considering the caliber of performances that its lead actors do bring.
Max (Brian Cox) is a prisoner who just found out he has a few months to live due to pancreatic cancer. Maxine (Kate Beckinsale), his estranged daughter, is barely making ends meet and loses her job thanks to her deadbeat ex Tyler (Tyson Ritter). Their son, Ezra (Christopher Convery), also suffers from epilepsy, and getting his medication becomes a financial burden. The last thing she needs is her father back in her life. Because this is the obvious movie that it is, that’s exactly what happens when he’s given an opportunity to spend the rest of his days under house arrest.
When Max first arrives, Maxine is reluctant to accept him in her life, and she doesn’t want her son to know he is his grandfather. But she agrees to take him in because she needs cash desperately. For Max, this is the opportunity he’s been waiting for to make amends with her. He takes an interest in Ezra, who faces bullies at school on a daily basis and signs him up for boxing lessons, despite Maxine’s wishes to break the “cycle of violence” in their family. He also does whatever he can to repair his relationship with Maxine, whether it’s getting her a job, sprucing up her house, or giving her extra money, but it’s too little, too late.
Cox and Beckinsale deliver strong performances throughout the film and especially bring life to it when they share emotional moments. But not even they can save this poorly written story. Mainly, every decision Bacci makes with his story is an easy choice. Of course, he has Max go against Maxine’s wishes when it comes to Ezra, which will make her angry, but somehow things work themselves out in the end. Of course, there will be loads of drama between the family and Tyler, a drug addict who can’t stay clean for his son. Nothing presented is new, and it’s the same rehashing of themes and topics you’ll find in similar dramas. Ezra, in particular, is a poorly written-character who gets stuck with the most conventional and by-the-numbers storyline. Because he’s a teen, he just has to have a smart-ass remark for every situation and conversation because that’s just apparently how all teens are. Not to mention, he has the same repetitive conversations about his relationship with his father, and despite how much they built him up as a good kid and being different from the other men in his family, he still chooses violence.
With a more passionate and creative writer on the team, “Prisoner’s Daughter” could have been a more impactful drama, but it’s yet another one to add to the skip pile. Cox and Beckinsale deserve a redo working together, preferably in a stronger film, because their on-screen work is the only reason to watch.