Review: Stars manage strong performances in generic melodrama ‘Prisoner’s Daughter’

Actors portraying an older man and his daughter stand outside a white and blue house with a sliding glass door.
Brian Cox and Kate Beckinsale star in the movie “Prisoner’s Daughter.”
(Vertical Entertainment)
Share via

When compared to the grating misfire that was “Mafia Mamma,” Catherine Hardwicke’s second release in as many months can’t help but seem like a considerable improvement.

But although “Prisoner’s Daughter” gets a necessary emotional lift from its strong lead performances, the blandly by-the-numbers redemptive family drama falls short of representing a return to early form for the “Thirteen” director.

Diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer, inmate Max (the ever estimable Brian Cox) is granted compassionate release, provided that he live out his remaining months under house arrest at the Las Vegas residence of his long-estranged daughter, Maxine (Kate Beckinsale).


Brian Cox recently explained why he hasn’t watched the ‘Succession’ series finale after his character, Logan Roy, died earlier in the season.

June 4, 2023

Alas, the prisoner’s daughter already has an awful lot on her plate, holding down multiple part-time jobs to catch up on her unpaid mortgage while her declined credit cards are no help in paying for expensive epilepsy meds for her 12-year-old son, Ethan (an impressive Christopher Convery).

If that isn’t enough, Maxine also tries to shield Ethan, who’s constantly being bullied at school for being a “twitcher,” from her drug-addicted, would-be rocker ex, Tyler (real-life rocker Tyson Ritter), who wants to have a closer relationship with their son.

Despite having had zero communication with her father for the past dozen years, Maxine ultimately agrees to the terms of Max’s release, provided that he pay her rent and that he’s introduced to Ethan as a distant uncle.

Because the film adheres to a schematic that’s pure, undiluted formula, it should come as no surprise that, little by little, tiny cracks develop in the years of resentment that Maxine wears like an impenetrable suit of armor, yielding to some much-needed family healing.

Not content to be serviceably generic, however, the Mark Bacci script takes a third-act turn into full-on, take-no-prisoners melodrama, from which it never recovers.

In the absence of fresher material, Hardwicke, who also has the first “Twilight” installment to her credit, handles the filmmaking with an unfussy efficiency, capturing the parched Nevada landscape while devoting her energies to coaxing impressive turns from her cast.


Scottish actor Cox, who just wrapped his commanding turn as Logan Roy on HBO’s “Succession,” brings a weary resignation to his role of a former boxer with one last fight in him who is yanked back into the life he thought he had permanently left behind.

Effective, too, is British actress Beckinsale, as the overly protective Maxine, whose crumbling childhood home has served as a de facto prison, keeping her chained to a traumatic past. Young Convery capably holds his own as her perceptive, wise-beyond-his-years middle schooler.

Ritter, meanwhile, who also fronts the band the All-American Rejects, does what he can with a one-dimensional caricature of a character who could be mistaken for a villain in a superhero movie — if Joaquin Phoenix tires of playing the Joker, Ritter could be the guy.

Here, though, like so much about “Prisoner’s Daughter,” the stale whiff of predictability can feel like a life sentence.

'Prisoner’s Daughter'

Rating: R, for language and some violence

Running time: 1 hour, 40 minutes

Playing: Starts June 30, Laemmle Monica Film Center, Santa Monica; Laemmle Town Center 5, Encino