Shot Caller (film)

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Shot Caller
Shot Caller poster.jpg
Teaser poster
Directed byRic Roman Waugh
Produced by
Written byRic Roman Waugh
Music byAntônio Pinto
CinematographyDana Gonzales
Edited byMichelle Tesoro
Distributed bySaban Films
Release date
  • June 16, 2017 (2017-06-16) (LA Film Fest)
  • August 18, 2017 (2017-08-18) (United States)
Running time
121 minutes[1]
CountryUnited States
Box office$3.4 million[2]

Shot Caller is a 2017 American crime thriller film directed and written by Ric Roman Waugh. The film chronicles the transformation of a well-to-do family man into a hardened prison gangster, undergone to survive California's penal system after he is incarcerated for his role in a deadly DUI car accident. The film stars Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Omari Hardwick, Lake Bell, Jon Bernthal, Emory Cohen, Jeffrey Donovan, and Evan Jones, with Benjamin Bratt, and Holt McCallany.

It premiered at the Los Angeles Film Festival on June 16, 2017.[3] The film was released on July 20, 2017, through DirecTV Cinema and theatrically on August 18, 2017, by Saban Films.[4]


Jacob Harlon (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) is a successful stockbroker living with his wife Katherine (Lake Bell) and son Joshua in California. Driving his wife and friends, Jacob unintentionally runs a red light, causing a collision; his best friend Tom is killed. It is later revealed that Jacob blew a .10 after the accident. Advised to take a plea deal, Jacob is sentenced to 16 months at the California Institution for Men in Chino.

Shocked by the brutality of prison life, Jacob heeds his lawyer's advice to stand his ground. He attacks an African-American inmate when provoked, drawing the attention of Bottles (Jeffrey Donovan), the “shot caller” for violent white supremacist gang. In return for protection and entry into the gang, Jacob is forced to smuggle heroin and kill a "snitch" within the gang.

Nicknamed “Money”, Harlon rises in rank and acquires gang-related tattoos. His personality and appearance change dramatically, hardened by prison. During a riot, Harlon stabs another inmate to save the life of Herman Gómez, head of the Sureños, but is caught on camera. Sentenced to nine more years, Harlon ceases all contact with his wife and son; Katherine eventually files for divorce.

Harlon is transferred to Corcoran State Prison under maximum-security. Like other "heavy-hitters", he is only allowed one hour outdoors per day, spent in a steel cage. Harlon is introduced to Jerry "the Beast" Manning (Holt McCallany), who manages the gang’s activity from inside prison. Impressed with Harlon's dedication, Beast promotes him to his second-in-command.

Set to be released after serving over seven years, Harlon is ordered by Beast to orchestrate a weapons deal with the Sureños; when Harlon hesitates, knowing he will be on parole, Beast reminds him of his duty and threatens his family. Harlon sends a letter to his son, and is released from prison. He is greeted by Frank "Shotgun" (Jon Bernthal) and other gang members, including Howie (Emory Cohen), a young war veteran with no criminal record. Escaping an attempt on his life, Harlon orders Howie to answer to no one but him.

Harlon’s probation officer Ed Kutcher, part of a task force investigating the gang, is tipped off about the weapons deal and places Harlon under surveillance. As Harlon prepares to sell a cache of weapons discovered by Howie while serving in Afghanistan, Howie reveals that he does not want to become a gang member, Harlon takes this into consideration, remembering how he joined the gang. Harlon also discovers Shotgun is Kutcher’s informant. Harlon reaches out to Katherine, transferring his finances to her. Against Harlon’s wishes, Katherine brings Joshua to meet him. Harlon, realizing he has missed several years of his son's life, is devastated but holds his emotions. Joshua, demanding answers, is unable to understand his father's gang life. Harlon then closes the door between them.

On the day of the deal, Harlon escapes his surveillance and goes to Shotgun's house where he stabs him multiple times, killing him. Kutcher finds Shotgun's body and retrieves his cellphone. After loading up the weapons and driving to meet the Sureños, Harlon texts their coordinates to Shotgun's cellphone. Deducing that Shotgun hid more of the weapons to sell himself, Harlon warns Howie to leave the criminal life and forces him out of the vehicle. As the deal closes, the police, ATF, and SWAT – alerted by Harlon's text – surround the gangs; only Howie escapes.

Fully validated as a gang member, Harlon is sentenced to life imprisonment with no possibility of parole (due in part to California’s three strikes law[5]). He turns down Kutcher's offer to testify against Beast in exchange for a full pardon. Harlon is returned to Corcoran, where Roberts, a corrupt guard, brings him to Beast. Realizing Harlon was responsible for the raid, Beast orders him back to his cell, to live out his sentence with the guilt that his family will be killed for his actions. Having smuggled in a handcuff key and a razor blade, Harlon frees himself and overpowers Roberts. Confronting Beast, Harlon kills him after a brief struggle. He glares at the dying Beast, whispering the words "Nobody's touching my family".

A blood-soaked Harlon orders Roberts to claim that he acted in self-defense, and assumes Beast's place atop the gang hierarchy. With his family’s safety secured, Harlon accepts his life sentence, and notifies Kutcher about the remaining weapons. He receives a letter from Joshua, explaining that he and Katherine are moving on, and he has forgiven his father. Touched, Harlon realizes this was the only way he could truly protect his family.



On April 9, 2015, Bold Films came on board to fully finance and produce the crime thriller film Shot Caller, to be directed by Ric Roman Waugh, based on his own script.[14] Participant Media developed the project, while Participant's Jonathan King produced, along with Michel Litvak and Matthew Rhodes of Bold Films, and Waugh.[14] In April 2015, Relativity Media acquired the US rights to the film for $3 million with a wide release commitment, and Sierra/Affinity was on board to handle international sales.[6] Since Relativity Media filed for bankruptcy on July 2015,[15] the film's release was postponed until Saban Films acquired the U.S. distribution rights in April 2017.[16]

Principal photography on the film began on May 26, 2015, in Albuquerque and Santa Fe, New Mexico.[17][18]


Reviews of the film have been mixed, with many reviewers praising Nikolaj Coster-Waldau's performance. On the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 63% based on 23 reviews, with an average score of 6.2/10 as of August 29, 2017.[19]


  1. ^ "SHOT CALLER (15)". British Board of Film Classification. November 8, 2017. Retrieved April 1, 2019.
  2. ^ "Shot Caller". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved October 23, 2017.
  3. ^ "LA Film Fest's Closing Night Film: Matt Spicer's 'Ingrid Goes West'". Retrieved 2017-05-16.
  4. ^ "EXCLUSIVE: 'Game of Thrones' Star Nikolaj Coster-Waldau Transforms For New Movie 'Shot Caller'". Retrieved 2017-05-16.
  5. ^ "20142".
  6. ^ a b Busch, Anita (April 24, 2015). "Relativity Plunks Down $3M To Pick Up Bold Films' 'Shot Caller' With 'Games Of Thrones' Actor In Lead". Deadline. Retrieved July 12, 2015.
  7. ^ a b c d e McNary, Dave (May 20, 2015). "Cannes: Lake Bell, Jon Bernthal Join Prison Drama 'Shot Caller'". Variety. Retrieved July 12, 2015.
  8. ^ Pedersen, Erik; D'Alessandro, Anthony (May 28, 2015). "James Buckley Joins Lonely Island Pic 'Conner4real'; Evan Jones Set For 'Shot Caller'; Goldenthal Lauded In Krakow". Deadline. Retrieved July 12, 2015.
  9. ^ Busch, Anita (May 27, 2015). "Benjamin Bratt Joins Bold Films' 'Shot Caller', Netflix's 'Special Correspondents'". Deadline. Retrieved July 12, 2015.
  10. ^ Kroll, Justin (June 19, 2015). "Holt McCallany Joins Prison Thriller 'Shot Caller' (EXCLUSIVE)". Variety. Retrieved July 12, 2015.
  11. ^ N'Duka, Amanda (April 30, 2015). "Rose McGowan, 2 Others Cast In 'Lower Bay'; Juan Pablo Raba Joins 'Shot Caller'". Deadline. Retrieved July 12, 2015.
  12. ^ Kit, Borys (June 29, 2015). "'Daredevil' Actor Joins Nikolaj Coster-Waldau in 'Shot C,aller'". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved July 12, 2015.
  13. ^ Sun, Rebecca (June 29, 2015). "Michael Landes Joins Matthew McConaughey in 'Gold' (Exclusive)". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved July 12, 2015.
  14. ^ a b McNary, Dave (April 9, 2015). "Bold Films to Produce Ric Roman Waugh's Prison Thriller 'Shot Caller'". Variety. Retrieved July 12, 2015.
  15. ^ Busch, David Lieberman,Anita (2016-03-18). "Relativity Media & Ryan Kavanaugh: A Walk Down Memory Lane Of Hype". Deadline. Retrieved 2017-05-16.
  16. ^ McNary, Dave (2017-04-11). "Saban Picks Up 'Shot Caller' Starring 'Game of Thrones' Actor Nikolaj Coster-Waldau". Variety. Retrieved 2017-05-16.
  17. ^ Gomez, Adrian (May 21, 2015). "'Shot Caller' to begin filming in NM with 'GoT' lead". Albuquerque Journal. Retrieved July 12, 2015.
  18. ^ "Casting Call in New Mexico for "Shot Caller" Feature Film". June 20, 2015. Retrieved July 12, 2015.
  19. ^ "Shot Caller". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2017-08-29.

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