From Saban Films and director Ric Roman Waugh, comes the stunning prison drama Shot Caller. Starring Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Omari Hardwick, Lake Bell, Jon Bernthal, Emory Cohen, Jeffrey Donovan, Benjamin Bratt, Evan Jones and Holt McCallany, the film is available on Blu-ray/DVD and VOD now.
Recently released from prison, a gang member finds himself forced by his leaders to orchestrate a major crime with a rival gang.
Ric Roman Waugh might be one of my favourite filmmakers working today. I loved his sleeper hit Felon from a few years back, which I feel is one of, if not the most, accurate and frightening prison dramas ever made. Shot Caller is his masterpiece however, the culmination of his directorial efforts so far which show an incredible and shocking inside look into the world of incarceration and how prison can transform a seemingly normal individual into a hardened criminal. Nikolaj Coster-Waldau delivers the performance of his career and one that I feel is worthy of an Academy Award nomination. Very much like Ed Norton in American History X, we see this transformation of a man who is forced to do unspeakable things in order to not only survive, but thrive in this terrifying world of joining a white supremacist gang.
After a horrible accident that costs the life of his friend, Money (that’s Waldau’s nickname in the film), ends up serving some time and learns very quick that you absolutely cannot show any sign of weakness after he sees a new inmate who cried during his entrance, end up getting gangraped and badly beaten on his first night. It goes to show you how this former wall-street guy, who is obviously incredibly smart, quickly adapts and makes a mark after joining the ranks of a white power gang. He does this at first for protection, but over time, the tasks he is served get exceedingly more dangerous. You think hiding a balloon of heroin in your ass is rough? What about the first time you’re forced to stab someone to death or face execution yourself?
Waldau does a lot of tremendous acting with his eyes in Shot Caller… He’s quiet, calm and frightening. To see him undergo not only this extreme physical transformation (check out the White Pride back tat) but to see him give commanding orders to guys like Jon Bernthal’s character the minute he’s free from prison – is quite surreal. How did this guy get so high up in the gang? How does someone go from being a normal person, to one of the most frightening criminals in movie history just because of the things he’s forced to do to stay alive behind bars?
Shot Caller is a gut punch and at times the violence can feel a little too real. Every time someone got a shank to the side of the ribs, I could almost feel it myself. There’s a death scene later on in the film that was one of the most jarring, disturbing and realistic movie murders that I’ve ever seen… The performance from the actor, who I won’t spoil here, is incredible and heart-breaking, even though he’s a shithead — i felt sad for him… That’s the power of the script, direction and cast. Ric Roman Waugh’s film bounces back and forth between current events when Money is released from prison back to when he slowly learns the ropes and rules. It’s a great structure to the film and really helps with the pacing. The ending is brutal in the same way Scarface or Godfather was and even though the audience knows straight from the get-go that there will be no real “happy” conclusion to Shot Caller, the way the film wraps up is poignant and perfect.
As a big fan of prison and crime dramas (Oz is one of the best TV shows ever made), I can safely proclaim Shot Caller deserves to be recognised in that same company. It is one of the best films of 2017, one of the best thrillers of the past decade and a stunning opus that shows how the justice system is just as effective, if not better, at creating criminals from the inside rather than the streets.
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