Shot Caller Review

nikolaj coster-waldau shot caller
Ten years after stockbroker Jacob (Game of Thrones’ Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) is jailed for a drink-driving offence, he leaves prison a hardened criminal with underworld connections. Instead of reconnecting with his wife and grown-up son, he strives to spare them by embracing a life of crime.

by David Hughes |
Published on
Release Date:

15 Dec 2017

Original Title:

Shot Caller

It took Breaking Bad eight seasons to transform a mild-mannered chemistry teacher into a drug kingpin, which begs the question: how will Snitch writer-director Ric Roman Waugh turn a Wall Street money man into steely-eyed gangster Money in the space of two hours? The answer is with considerable style, grit and the aid of a clever non-linear narrative, catapulting Shot Caller past some higher profile thrillers to mark out its territory as one of the best of the year.

Coster-Waldau inhabits the role of Money with conviction.

The film begins as Money leaves prison, ten years (and about a hundred tattoos) after being jailed for accidentally killing his best friend (Max Greenfield) in a drink-driving accident. His original 16-month sentence had seemed manageable, and his wife (Lake Bell) vowed to stand by him. But once inside, Jacob is told he had two choices: be a victim – like the fellow newcomer violently raped on his first night – or a warrior, joining the ranks of the white supremacists like ‘Shotgun’ (Jon Bernthal) and ‘Bottles’ (Jeffrey Donovan). Of course, their brotherhood comes with a price, and when Jacob is coerced into shanking a fellow inmate, his original 16-month stretch soon begins to, well, stretch.

From the moment he steps out of clink with his handlebar moustache, bulked-up body and ‘White Pride’ tattoos, Coster-Waldau inhabits the role of Money with conviction, and it’s easy to see how Jacob’s Wall Street brain has been reapplied to the nefarious demands of the criminal underworld. But it’s the flashback scenes with Jacob/Money’s wife and child that give the film its dramatic and emotional heft, showing (in a refreshingly non-preachy way) how prison is a production line that turns ordinary citizens into criminals. Shot Caller shares some narrative DNA with Brawl In Cell Block 99, but its gut punches are largely of the emotional variety, and all the better for it.

Coster-Waldau is a convincing leading man in Waugh’s narratively inventive ex-con thriller, and it’s a testament to the film’s depth that it feels like ten episodes of a Netflix series – Orange Is The New Castle Black? – crammed into two hours.
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