Review: Shot Caller

Shot Caller
8 10

PLOT: After causing a deadly accident while driving drunk, a family man (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) is sent to a maximum security penitentiary. There, he’s recruited by the Aryan Brotherhood, and coerced into acts of violence that threaten to erase any trace of the man he once was.

REVIEW: A movie like SHOT CALLER is why I review so many direct-to-VOD titles. They usually fall in two camps – indie films that never get a major release, or low-rent action titles. SHOT CALLER is being sold as the latter, but it’s really the former, having played to some acclaim at the LAFF (Los Angeles Film Festival) earlier this year. It’s probably the best film that the distributor, Saban, has ever put out, and a major undiscovered gem, featuring a strong change-of-pace role for leading man Nikolaj Coster-Waldau.

It’s a pretty far cry from his role on “Game of Thrones”, and a killer part, with him having to believably convey a man’s transition from timid family man to a cold-blooded, racist killer, but he pulls it off while still maintaining the audience’s sympathy – even if his choices are horrible. When the movie starts, he’s a much-feared, heavily tattooed (with a giant swastika over his solar plexus) inmate named “Money”, who, immediately after being paroled, starts working on a huge gun-deal with a local gang. From there, the movie flashes back and forth to his life ten years earlier, as a yuppie who, one night, has a few too many drinks, takes his eye off the road while driving, and accidently causes the death of his best friend (Max Greenfield).

His transition to prison foot-soldier is done well, with writer director Ric Roman Waugh clearly knowing the milieu, having directed the similarly-themed, low-budget FELON, and the Dwayne Johnson vehicle SNITCH (underrated). You get the fact that Waldau, initially, is a lamb among wolves, and his recruitment by Jeffrey Donovan’s seemingly reasonable gang boss, makes sense. What starts as low-key drug mule-ing leads to violence, intimidation and murder – but he’s not an unwilling participant. We see how his ego is stroked and how he gets carried away in the lifestyle, even though he’s got a lovely, kind wife (Lake Bell – in a small role) back home, who would be horrified to learn he’s become a glorified Nazi.


As the movie goes on, we see how Money can never go back to his former life, with his every action spiraling into violent chaos. It’s Waldau’s show all the way, but Donovan and Jon Bernthal are memorable as his prison buddies, while Holt McCallany is terrifying as their beast-like leader. On the side of the angels, you have “Power’s” Omari Hardwick as money’s parole officer, who’s badly shaken after having been forced to kill one of his charges, and Benjamin Bratt as his sympathetic partner. BROOKLYN’s Emory Cohen also contributes an uncommonly subtle performance as a young prospect that hero-worships Money and seems headed down the same path.

As far as prison melodramas go, this one is pretty terrific, with some gruesome flashes of violence and tough fight scenes, none of which are drawn-out. The violence is fast, unpredictable and gruesome, and even though we’re supposed to sympathize with Money, nothing about his lifestyle is glamorized, with him caught in an absolute inferno he’ll seemingly never be able to escape. It adds up to an intense movie, and a must-see.

Source: JoBlo.com



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