Shot Caller (film)
|Directed by||Ric Roman Waugh|
|Written by||Ric Roman Waugh|
|Music by||Antônio Pinto|
|Edited by||Michelle Tesoro|
|Distributed by||Saban Films|
|Box office||$3.4 million|
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.
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). 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.
- Nikolaj Coster-Waldau as Jacob "Money" Harlon
- Omari Hardwick as Ed Kutcher, Money's parole officer
- Lake Bell as Kate Harlon, Jacob's wife
- Jon Bernthal as Frank "Shotgun", Money's former prison buddy and associate, and PEN1 member
- Emory Cohen as Howie, a war veteran and Money's young acolyte
- Jeffrey Donovan as Bottles, one of Money's key prison influencers and PEN1 shot caller
- Evan Jones as Chopper, Money's former cellmate and an associate of Shotgun's
- Benjamin Bratt as Sheriff Sanchez, who is partnered with Kutcher
- Holt McCallany as Jerry "The Beast" Manning, an Aryan Brotherhood shot caller
- Juan Pablo Raba as Herman Gómez, Leader of the Sureños and a possible Mexican Mafia member
- Matt Gerald as Phil Cole, a parole officer chasing some gang members
- Michael Landes as Steve
- Danny Winn as Doyle SWAT
- Jessy Schram as Jennifer, Tom's wife
- Keith Jardine as Ripper, a member of the Nazi Low Riders
- Chris Browning as Toby "Redwood" Simms, a high ranking Aryan Brotherhood member
- Max Greenfield as Tom, Jacob's best friend
- Monique Candelaria as Lola Gomez, Herman's wife
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. Participant Media developed the project, while Participant's Jonathan King produced, along with Michel Litvak and Matthew Rhodes of Bold Films, and Waugh. 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. Since Relativity Media filed for bankruptcy on July 2015, the film's release was postponed until Saban Films acquired the U.S. distribution rights in April 2017.
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.
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