Shot Caller (2017)
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Critic Reviews for Shot Caller
If you imagine Andy Dufresne embarking on a hyper-violent gangland crime spree, you've got the premise of this thriller about the corrosive power of prison.
Achieving a hardy balance to a complex character and heightened importance to an otherwise terminally depressing study in total immorality, the star is powerful and so riveting you can't take your eyes off him.
We haven't had much of an opportunity to see Nikolaj Coster-Waldau flexing his acting chops in other roles. Shot Caller gives us an inkling of what he's capable of.
But despite its unabashed fondness for clichés and tired tropes, Shot Caller mostly succeeds in its aims because of Waugh's sober, matter-of-fact approach to the material.
Waugh forgoes cheap action-movie gimmicks, offering up instead a haunting psychological portrait of an intelligent man forced to completely reinvent himself before he can even dream of seeking redemption for his previous sins.
Audience Reviews for Shot Caller
The most renowned prison movies are about escape (The Shawshank Redemption), a man's final hours in death row (The Green Mile), and racist extremists (American History X). Shot Caller is more in line with HBO's 2016 miniseries The Night Of; the institutionalization of the common man. Nikolaj-Coster Waldau, also known as Ser Jaime Lannister from Game of Thrones, plays Jacob Harlon. Convicted of involuntary manslaughter, he's thrown behind the bars of a prison filled with gangs, violence, and corruption. Or, in simpler terms, your outsider's view of what a modern day prison entails. He immediately understands that behind bars, it's kill or be killed, and he chooses the former. Waldau proves himself as an actor in this role which is both physically and mentally transformative. He goes from being skinny and neat businessman Jacob to a muscular and scruffy criminal named Money. The film weaves back and forth between the beginning of the manslaughter charge and the repercussions of what he endured in prison after his release a decade later. Normally, I'm not a big fan of non-chronological stories, but it works in Shot Caller's favor. Seeing the beginning and end of his transformation side-by-side makes it all the more powerful. Like The Night Of, Shot Caller is a great commentary on the current state of America's justice system. Weak security makes it all too easy for prisoners to conspire with others, made only worse by the guards taking bribes to turn the other way. Albeit, you've probably already seen an interpretation on what it's like inside a modern prison, so you won't be blown out of the water here; it's just done very well. While two detectives are investigating Money and his gang post-imprisonment, one asks the other what would compel Money to leave behind his family in favor of a life of crime, and he's answered with "Once a dude gets institutionalized, anything is possible". There's a lot of depth to that line; prison can turn a morally straight man into an unpredictable and erratic criminal. We're ultimately left with a thrilling and powerful finale thanks mostly in part to Waldau's excellent performance.
Something you will have seen before, but still utterly gripping.
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