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, which he undergoes 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 is a successful stockbroker living with his wife, Katherine, and son Joshua, in California. One night he drives his wife and friends home after dinner and causes a collision which kills one of his friends. Advised to take a plea deal due to him being under the influence of alcohol at the time of the accident, Jacob is sentenced to 16 months at the California Institution for Men in Chino.

Shocked by the brutality of prison life, Harlon stands his ground and attacks an African-American inmate when provoked, drawing the attention of Bottles, the “shot caller” for a violent white supremacist gang, PENI. In return for protection and entry into the gang, Jacob is forced to smuggle heroin and kill a "snitch" within the gang. Harlon rises in rank, obtains the alias “Money”, and acquires several gang-related tattoos. Harlon also appears muscular and his personality changes dramatically, hardened by prison life. During a riot, Harlon stabs another inmate to save the life of the head of the Sureños, but is caught on camera. This earns him respect from other gang leaders, however he is sentenced to nine more years. Harlon ceases all contact with his family, demanding that they move on and forget him. Harlon is transferred to Corcoran State Prison under maximum-security. There, he is introduced to an inmate called "The Beast", who commands the Aryan Brotherhood, the top of the white prison gang hierarchy. 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. Knowing he will be on parole, Harlon hesitates until Beast informs him that membership in the gang does not end when leaving prison and threatens his family. Upon release, he is greeted by "Shotgun" and other gang members, including Howie, a young Afghanistan war veteran with no criminal record. Harlon survives an attack at a party and orders Howie to answer to no one but him.

Harlon’s parole officer Ed Kutcher, is tipped off about the weapons deal and places Harlon under surveillance. As Harlon prepares to sell a cache of weapons, Howie reveals that he does not want to become a gang member. Harlon also discovers Shotgun is Kutcher’s informant. After Harlon transfers his finances to his wife, she brings Joshua to meet him against his wishes. Seeing how his son has grown up without him, Harlon holds his emotions. Joshua demands answers but is unable to understand his father's gang life. Harlon shuts the door and has a brief emotional breakdown. On the day of the deal, Harlon escapes his surveillance and goes to Shotgun's house where he kills him. Kutcher finds Shotgun's body and retrieves his cellphone. After meeting the Sureños, Harlon texts their coordinates to Shotgun's cellphone. Realizing 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 and watches from a distance, realizing Harlon saved his life.

Fully validated, Harlon is sentenced to life imprisonment with no possibility of parole. He turns down Kutcher's offer to testify against Beast in exchange for a full pardon. Harlon is returned to Corcoran, where a corrupt prison guard brings him to Beast. Realizing Harlon was responsible for the raid, Beast orders him to live out his sentence with the guilt that his family will be killed for his actions. This provokes Harlon, having smuggled in a handcuff key and a razor blade, he frees himself. Harlon subdues the guard and forces him to drop his radio before locking him in a cell. Beast realizes that Harlon tipped off law enforcement knowing he would be sent back to Corcoran. Harlon unlocks Beast's cage and a brief fight ensues leaving Beast mortally wounded. Harlon watches a dying Beast and demands "nobody's touching my family". He orders the prison guard to claim that he acted in self-defense, and assumes Beast's place as the new leader 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, living a successful and happy life, and that he has forgiven his father. This touches Harlon emotionally as he looks at pictures of his former life with his family. He realizes that sacrificing his own freedom to kill Beast was the only way he could truly protect his family from his other enemies. The film ends with Harlon exercising in the yard.



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.[13] Participant Media developed the project, while Participant's Jonathan King produced, along with Michel Litvak and Matthew Rhodes of Bold Films, and Waugh.[13] 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.[5] Since Relativity Media filed for bankruptcy on July 2015,[14] the film's release was postponed until Saban Films acquired the U.S. distribution rights in April 2017.[15]

Principal photography on the film began on May 26, 2015, in Albuquerque and Santa Fe, New Mexico.[16][17]


On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 69% based on 49 reviews, with an average score of 5.9/10 and the consensus reads "Shot Caller's weakness for action movie clichés is capably offset by strong work from Nikolaj Coster-Waldau in the central role".[18] On Metacritic the film has a score of 59 out of 100 based on reviews from 10 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews.[19]

Peter Debruge of Variety wrote: "It’s a genre movie, to be sure, but there’s an impressive sense of authenticity—in the language, the locations and the overall texture—that goes a long way to sell the scenario."[20]


  1. ^ "SHOT CALLER (15)". British Board of Film Classification. November 8, 2017. Retrieved April 1, 2019. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  2. ^ "Shot Caller". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved October 23, 2017. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  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. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  5. ^ 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. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  6. ^ 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. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  7. ^ 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. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  8. ^ Busch, Anita (May 27, 2015). "Benjamin Bratt Joins Bold Films' 'Shot Caller', Netflix's 'Special Correspondents'". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved July 12, 2015. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  9. ^ Kroll, Justin (June 19, 2015). "Holt McCallany Joins Prison Thriller 'Shot Caller' (EXCLUSIVE)". Variety. Retrieved July 12, 2015. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  10. ^ 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. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  11. ^ Kit, Borys (June 29, 2015). "'Daredevil' Actor Joins Nikolaj Coster-Waldau in 'Shot Caller'". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved July 12, 2015. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  12. ^ Sun, Rebecca (June 29, 2015). "Michael Landes Joins Matthew McConaughey in 'Gold' (Exclusive)". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved July 12, 2015. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  13. ^ a b McNary, Dave (April 9, 2015). "Bold Films to Produce Ric Roman Waugh's Prison Thriller 'Shot Caller'". Variety. Retrieved July 12, 2015. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  14. ^ Busch, David Lieberman,Anita (2016-03-18). "Relativity Media & Ryan Kavanaugh: A Walk Down Memory Lane Of Hype". Deadline. Retrieved 2017-05-16.
  15. ^ McNary, Dave (2017-04-11). "Saban Picks Up 'Shot Caller' Starring 'Game of Thrones' Actor Nikolaj Coster-Waldau". Variety. Retrieved 2017-05-16.
  16. ^ Gomez, Adrian (May 21, 2015). "'Shot Caller' to begin filming in NM with 'GoT' lead". Albuquerque Journal. Retrieved July 12, 2015. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  17. ^ "Casting Call in New Mexico for "Shot Caller" Feature Film". June 20, 2015. Retrieved July 12, 2015. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  18. ^ "Shot Caller". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2020-02-04.
  19. ^ "Shot Caller". Metacritic. Retrieved 2020-01-31.
  20. ^ Debruge, Peter (August 18, 2017). "Film Review: 'Shot Caller'". Variety.

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