Written and Directed by: Ric Roman Waugh
Starring: Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Omari Hardwick, Lake Bell, Jon Bernthal, Emory Cohen, Jeffrey Donovan, Evan Jones, Benjamin Bratt, and Holt McCallany
Run Time: 2h 1min
Genre: Crime, Drama, Thriller
3 Frames out of 5
By: Shari K. Green
Shot Caller is a very brutal, violent and bloody yet incredibly intriguing crime, drama. Writer/Director Ric Roman Waugh, mostly known for stunts, takes the audience through the life of an upstanding citizen and businessman named Jacob (Coster-Waldau), who’s also known as Money, and shows you how easy it is for him to become the complete opposite of what he has always believed himself to be. After driving drunk with friends and his wife Kate (Bell) in the car, he has an accident that kills his friend. Jacob is found guilty of vehicular manslaughter and sent to prison. Inside, he immediately learns a new reality, one he never knew existed. That reality is who really rules in a prison and it’s not who he would have expected, or hoped it would be. The gangs are in charge there and most especially, the top dogs within them. He learns quickly who the almighty is and what his place is.
The story isn’t told in your typical linear sense but do not get concerned with that. Though it starts with him about to be released you won’t get lost with the flow of how the story unfolds. The way the scenes play out, being unpredictable helps to keep you more involved as the story unfolds. After we see him writing a letter to his son who grew up fatherless, we go back and forth from right before Jacob goes into prison and what his life was like up to that point and then to what and who he became as the consequences of his imprisonment. It does harden and change him.
He sees a violent crime on his first night in incarceration and he realizes that being dominant is the only way to survive his sentence. He makes a decision to do what it takes to not become a victim. He surrounds himself with the Arian brotherhood and is available and useful to them by showing strength and also proving loyalty. To move up in the ranks, he finds out that he has to be someone he’s not. He embraces his ‘Money’ nickname and persona to better handle the person he has to be on the inside and totally let go of, Jacob, the person he once was. In the pen, there is no other life except that of the victim or warrior… he finds his warrior within.
The acting, especially by Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (The Other Woman, At World’s End) is truly special. The film might not have had the largest budget but that didn’t stop Waugh from offering a complete and fulfilling story which will entertain you the entire two hours. It’s a sound narrative and you just may find yourself flipping through some IMDB pages to see what other films of the director and the actors you can find to watch. I wasn’t wooed by the title but the cast, the script and the directing brought me around instantly and it will you, too.