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Director: Ric Roman Waugh

Starring: Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Omari Hardwick, Lake Bell, Jon Bernthal, Holt McCallany, Benjamin Bratt, Evan Jones, Jeffrey Donovan, Emory Cohen

Would DUI manslaughter warrant a position at a maximum security facility?


That’s an actual question, by the way. If anyone knows, please let me know!


Anyway. Jacob Harlon (Coster-Waldau) is a decent, hard-working family man with a loving wife, Kate (Bell), and son Joshua. A stockbroker by day and winer-and-diner by night, things go dramatically south for him when, on the way home from wining and dining with friends, he is responsible for a car accident that kills his best friend.


Don’t drink and drive, folks… (or take your eyes off of the road)

He ends up incarcerated in said maximum security prison and immediately realises that in order to stay alive he has two choices – he becomes a warrior or a victim. Picking the former, he rises through the ranks of the prison with a cold ruthlessness and begins to lose any connection with his outside life - including his family. Initiated into gang life under the rule of The Beast (McCallany), Jacob, who goes under the moniker “Money”, recognises that whether he is behind bars or a free man, his new persona will never leave him. Upon his release, Money is tasked with completing one more major crime, but the police and parole officer, Kutcher (Hardwick) are onto him. In order to protect his only love, his family, he must risk and forsake everything he once knew.


Shot Caller doesn’t follow a standard linear narrative, instead deciding to tell Jacob/Money’s story in flashbacks merged with present day scenes. There are roughly ten years separating the intersecting timelines and they blend pretty well, with only a few moments where it isn’t clear that a switch has taken place.


It’s an interesting take on the effects of imprisonment, the dehumanisation if you will, and the lead character is given more meat on the bone than in similar flicks. The solid use of backstory enables Money to become a sympathetic character of sorts as it’s apparent he only wants to protect his (eventually estranged) family. The character mainly succeeds, though, due to Coster-Waldau’s sound lead performance. Behind the (rockin’) handlebar moustache is a conflicted man, one part family guy, the other now a ruthless killer for their protection and Coster-Waldau has enough about him to make the change believable and provide an engaging performance. The remaining cast members all do their jobs with a professional edge, however many are types that pop up frequently in crime thrillers.


The stereotyping is something that pops up during Shot Caller, not just for the characters. Plot beats and twists occur that are standard for the genre and having set up the movie as a dramatic insight into Money’s life and motivations, the ending somewhat unravels the good work that came before (it begins to reach a fair bit…) but still, it ties the story up and connects the dots scattered throughout the movie. The highlights of the movie, in fact, are the scenes set up for drama, and certainly ones that follow Money through his plan after being freed.


There’s nothing new to be found here, but that’s okay because the movie stands up as a solid crime movie, with additional drama thrown on top, ensuring it doesn’t quite fall into the run-of-the-mill category. Coster-Waldau leads from the front, giving us a character to cling to in a movie that does just enough to keep you hooked in.


It doesn’t make me want to carry things around in my bottom though.

September 13th 2017

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