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Austin Taylor
Austin Taylor

Prisoner's Daughter

PLOT: Newly diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, a convicted murderer (Brian Cox) is given a supervised, compassionate release under the supervision of his long-estranged daughter (Kate Beckinsale).

Prisoner's Daughter

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Director Catherine Hardwicke knows how to shoot an independent film. Her roots began with the wildly descriptive look at modern teenagers in Thirteen before moving to skateboarding and Southern California surf culture in Lords of Dogtown. She rode the wave of commercial filmmaking with her stint directing Twilight before returning to familiar territory in recent years. Her latest effort, Prisoner's Daughter, is a peek into a complicated father-daughter relationship that seeks atonement in every breath. It simply doesn't deliver what it aims to accomplish from the first frame.

Prisoner's Daughter stars Brian Cox (who plays Logan Roy in HBO's drama Succession)as Max, a former criminal turned redeemed prisoner. Max has pancreatic cancer and is told by the warden of his Las Vegas penitentiary that he can live out his dying days under house arrest. He is compassionately released to his estranged daughter Maxine (Kate Beckinsale), a single mother raising her epileptic son Ezra (Christopher Convery), and who is contending with being in debt up to her eyeballs. Maxine is known for not being able to hold down a job in the service industry while battling with her ex (Tyson Ritter) about his refusal to get clean from drugs. Max is walking into a minefield and doesn't even know it.

Maxine, ashamed of her father's past, tells Ezra he is a family friend she hasn't spoken to in years, but her son has doubts. Max immediately attempts to make amends with his adult daughter, giving her money to stay at the house they grew up in to pay the mortgage and Ezra's epilepsy medication. Maxine takes the money out of desperation despite her willingness to hold onto her principles. She asks Max to go along with her lie to Ezra about his true identity. He agrees, but not before he can start construction on an apartment attached to the house so that Maxine can rent it out after he passes away.

Prisoner's Daughter does what it can to tug at the heartstrings while telling a complex story of redemption. Because redemption is all Max and Maxine strive for in his melodramatic story of familial relationships gone wrong. Max's past actions have consequences for his daughter's present life, and Cox's embodiment of Max offers a semi-realistic portrayal of a convict trying to make things right. However, while Cox and Beckinsale deliver raw and emotional performances, Mark Bacci's dialogue and screenplay fail to carry out a story worth the price of admission. Convery's Ezra is a bland representation of a child getting bullied in school, while his determination to connect with his loser of a father becomes repetitive. Even the subplot between Max, Ezra, and Max's old boxing buddy (Ernie Hudson) is contrived.

Viewers are already dealing with the tension between Max and his daughter while splitting screen time with a son attempting his own form of redemption geared towards those who have picked on him at school for an illness he can't control. Did the audience need a drug-addicted ex-boyfriend entering the scene and a kidnapping sequence going awry? With a dying Max regretting how his daughter turned out, that should've been the film's focus. Instead, viewers are treated to a plethora of side characters who bring nothing to the central meaning of Prisoner's Daughter, all while the art of defending oneself gets lost in the shuffle.

Sporting powerhouse performances from Brian Cox and Kate Beckinsale, this engrossing drama from director Catherine Hardwicke (Thirteen) follows a former boxer seeking one last chance to redeem himself in the eyes of his beloved daughter and grandson.

You've depicted strong friendships, and complicated friendships in so many films, and here you're taking on intergenerational family relationships. Was it more difficult getting into the father-daughter dynamic?

The movie tells the story of a tough but proud former prisoner who struggles to find a way to reconnect with his only daughter and grandson. As soon as he begins an attempt at reconciliation, his violent past once again comes back to haunt him.

The story is about a tough but proud ex-con who's struggling to find a way to reconnect with his only daughter (Beckinsale) and grandson; once he begins an attempt at reconciliation, his violent past once again catches up to him.googletag.cmd.push(function() googletag.display('div-gpt-ad-8052921-2'); );

Keller Dover (Hugh Jackman) is a religious and disciplined carpenter residing with his family, which includes his wife Grace (Maria Bello), son Ralph (Dylan Minnette), and daughter Anna (Erin Gerasimovich). On Thanksgiving, the Dovers are invited to their friends, Franklin and Nancy Birch's (Terrence Howard & Viola Davis) home.

When their daughters Anna and Joy go missing the very same day, Detective Loki (Jake Gyllenhaal) is assigned on the case. A mentally challenged Alex Jones (Paul Dano) is brought into custody as a suspect but is released on lack of evidence. Convinced that Alex is responsible, Keller decides to take matters into his own hands and abduct Alex to force the truth out of him. As Keller moves to torture Alex in desperation, Loki fights within himself to solve the case as he runs out of leads and suspects.

When the police find Joy, she tells Keller that she heard him when she was kept imprisoned. Keller immediately realizes that Holly Jones (Melissa Leo, in another stellar performance) has his daughter Anna in captivity. As soon as Keller realizes, he runs off to Holly Jones's house. On the other hand, Detective Loki runs to Keller's old house, where he's keeping Alex as a prisoner.

When confronting Holly, she holds Keller at gunpoint and asks him to get into a pit where she'd kept his daughter earlier. She shoots him in the leg, and he crawls into the pit, where he finds his daughter's red whistle he gave her as a tool to cry for help.

Keller, throughout the film, loses his faith in God as he tortures Alex for information. He denounces all belief and his faith by giving up his moral values. A man who doesn't even enter someone's house unless he's invited suddenly becomes this emotionless torturer of a young soul. But, at the moment in the pit, he finds his daughter's whistle (which he later uses as a cry for help), which apparently restores his faith in his morals as that whistle is the light of hope (symbolized by a flash of torch on his face) bestowed upon him by the almighty.

By this time, it has been a few days since Anna was saved. Keller is missing (in reality, he's still trapped in the pit since Holly Jones put him there). The investigation into the other missing children is on. Loki supervises Holly's property's excavation, but the crew says that the ground is too frozen to finish the job. Loki lets the crew go and stands there in silence. Suddenly, he hears a whistle. Keller is alive and is blowing his daughter's red whistle for help. Loki hears it and shrugs it off, but as the whistle's sound amplifies, Loki realizes something is off, and then the camera cuts to black. The End.

Honorable Karren S. PriceDistrict Attorney123rd Judicial DistrictShelby & Panola Counties101 San Augustine St.Center, Texas 75935Letter Opinion No. 90-070 Dear Ms. Price: Your letter to us presents the following facts: The Sheriff of Shelby County has been authorized by theCommissioner's Court to have reserve deputies. He has anagreement with the Immigration and Naturalization Service wherebyhe houses federal prisoners in our local jail facility. In July,one of the federal prisoners fell ill and was hospitalized forseveral days, requiring a 24-hour per day guard. At that point,the Sheriff instructed the reserve sergeant to take care of that,meaning scheduling a guard for this particular prisoner for theperiod of his hospitalization. Shortly thereafter the Sheriffadvised the reserve sergeant that the Sheriff's son and daughter-in-law were available for guard duty. Neither of these twoindividuals is a certified peace officer, or jailer; nor doeither of them have any experience in law enforcement. Hefurther insists that these two individuals be allowed to guardthis prisoner at whatever time would best fit their (the son'sand daughter-in-law's) schedule. As it turned out, the two ofthem amassed 200 hours of time, for which the reserve sergeantbilled the INS, the INS then cut a check in payment of same toSHELBY COUNTY RESERVE DIVISION, at the Sheriff's Departmentaddress. At that point, the Sheriff's son and daughter-in-law wereissued checks drawn on the Shelby County Reserve Deputy'schecking account. Those checks were signed by the reservesergeant and the reserve captain. Subsection (a) of section 1 of article 5996a, V.T.C.S., thenepotism statute, provides: (a) No officer of this State nor any officer of any district,county, city, precinct, school district or other municipalsubdivision of this State, nor any officer or member of any Statedistrict, county, city, school district, or other municipalboard, or judge of any court, created by or under authority ofany General or Special Law of this State, nor any member of theLegislature, shall appoint, or vote for, or confirm theappointment to any office, position, clerkship, employment orduty, of any person related within the second degree by affinityor within the third degree by consanguinity to the person soappointing or so voting, or to any other member of any suchboard, the Legislature, or court of which such person soappointing or voting may be a member, when the salary, fees, orcompensation of such appointee is to be paid for, directly orindirectly, out of or from public funds or fees of office of anykind or character whatsoever. Section 85.004 of the Local Government Code provides that acommissioners court "may authorize the sheriff to appoint reservedeputy sheriffs." You do not make clear whether the sheriffactually appointed his son and daughter-in- law as reservedeputies, but if he did so, section 85.004 requires that "at thetime of appointment," they must file an oath and execute and filea bond in the amount of $2,000." Nethertheless, whatever the actual status of his son anddaughter-in- law, it is clear that the sheriff, a county officer,appointed them to some "position ... employment or duty" underthe terms of section 1(a) of article 5996a. It is furtherapparent that both individuals are related to the sheriff withinthe prohibited degrees, the son within the first degree ofconsanguinity and the daughter-in-law within the first degree ofaffinity. See Attorney General Letter Advisory No. 67 (1973).In addition, since you indicate that the appointees were "issuedchecks drawn on the Shelby County Reserve Deputy's checkingaccount," it is evident that their compensation was "paid for ...out of or from public funds." The sheriff does not avoid thenepotism statute by delegating hiring decisions to a deputy.Attorney General Opinion JM-1188 (1990).Yours very truly,Rick GilpinChairmanOpinion CommitteeTexas OAG home page Opinions & Open Government 041b061a72


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