His first disappointment comes when, having successfully kidnapped Charlie (Anton Gillis-Adelman), the grandson of his old business partner who screwed him over, his boys botch the job of collecting the ransom from Charlie’s mother, Clair (Gina Carano). To be fair, they probably didn’t count on her being ex-military and quite handy both behind the wheel of an SUV, and the stock of a rifle. Father’s second disappointment comes when Clair captures one of the boys, Larsen (Brendan Fehr) and forces him to lead her to the old man and her son. What follows, for the main part of the film, is her pursuit of the mean who kidnapped her son through the snowbound wilderness of the Yukon which, just to make things more interesting, is the hunting ground of a pack of hungry wolves.
Director, David Hackl, got his start as a Production Designer, working in the Saw franchise (on Saw II, III and IV) before making the leap to the Director’s chair for Saw V. Obviously he learned a few things about tension and pace along the way, because he tells this story with an assured and steady hand with a bit of help from a pretty good screenplay by Nika Agiahvili. What elevates this from a run-of-the-mill shoot-’em-up chase story is the way two relationships are developed as the story unfolds. The first is between Claire and Larsen who, in between her beating the crap out of him and him saving her life, start to reveal themselves to each other in a way that helps us care about him just as much as we do about her. The second relationship is a bit more unexpected; it’s between Father and Charlie and, like Claire’s relationship with Larsen, it serves to humanise Father and saves him from just being a two-dimension cookie cutter villain. We may not exactly care about him, but we do come to understand him and maybe even sympathise with him (especially when we get the feeling he’d much rather have had Charlie as a son instead of the dopes he’s surrounded himself with).
And then there’s the wolves. Well, one wolf in particular: a black pelted wolf that is clearly the leader of the pack and, as the title tells us, takes a shine to Clair. Sadly, the weakest part of this movie is the lack of explanation for the relationship between Clair and the black wolf. It’s a shame, because it’s a crucial part of the story and it requires us to suspend a bit of disbelief in order to make it work. If the film was so strong in its other aspects, this might be a deal breaker but, for me at least, I went with it. And the wolf is terrific, which helps. I hasten to add that this film never achieves what a film like The Grey does in terms of stories about wolves, but it’s pretty good just the same.
The action is well directed and Carano (whose pedigree includes Fast & Furious 6 and Deadpool) creates a great character that is believable both as a mother and as a kick-arse action gal and manages to avoid that common pitfall of falling back on playing the female hero like a man. The snowy, mountainous location is beautifully photographed by Mark Dobrescu and his shooting of the wolf scenes is tense and gripping (and hats off to the wolf-wranglers whoever you were!).
Inevitably, of course, the film has to climax with a lot of shooting and blood being spilled (and a few wounds that seem like they should have been far more debilitating for those characters than their actions would suggest) but for all its well-staged and choreographed action and gunplay, this is not a gratuitous or mindlessly violent film. There is thoughtfulness here as well, and characters that are driven by believable emotions and desires. As satisfying as DAUGHTER OF THE WOLF is as an action thriller, it also scores on the human drama scale.
Daughter of the Wolf is available on home-entertainment through Eagle Entertainment on August 14, 2019