Shot Caller (film)

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Shot Caller
Shot Caller poster.jpg
Teaser poster
Directed byRic Roman Waugh
Written byRic Roman Waugh
Produced by
  • Michel Litvak
  • Gary Michael Walters
  • Jonathan King
  • Ric Roman Waugh
CinematographyDana Gonzales
Edited byMichelle Tesoro
Music byAntônio Pinto
Distributed bySaban Films
Release dates
  • 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 written and directed by Ric Roman Waugh. The film chronicles the transformation of a well-to-do family man, played by Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, 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 also stars Omari Hardwick, Lake Bell, Jon Bernthal, Emory Cohen, Jeffrey Donovan, Evan Jones, 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 under the influence and causes a collision which kills one of his friends. After taking a plea deal, Jacob is sentenced to 16 months at the California Institution for Men in Chino.

On his first night inside, Harlon overhears the gang rape of a fellow inmate and quickly decides his only chance at survival is to go on the offensive. The next day, he stands his ground and attacks an African-American inmate when provoked, drawing the attention of Bottles, the "shot caller" for the white supremacist gang PENI; in return for protection and entry into the gang, Jacob is forced to smuggle heroin and kill a snitch. Over time, Harlon rises in rank, obtains the alias "Money", and grows even more hardened by prison life. During a riot, Harlon stabs another inmate to save the life of the head of the Sureños, earning him respect from other gang leaders, but is caught on camera and sentenced to nine years (to run concurrently to his original sentence) as a result. Harlon then ceases all contact with his family, demanding that they move on and forget him. Harlon is eventually transferred to Corcoran State Prison where he is introduced to "The Beast", the leader of the Aryan Brotherhood there. Impressed with Harlon's dedication, The Beast promotes him to his second-in-command.

As he is set to be released, Harlon is ordered by The Beast to orchestrate a weapons deal with the Sureños. Though Harlon is initially hesitant as he will be on parole, he eventually relents after The Beast 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 was recently involved in a shootout with a reoffending pedophile parolee, where he himself was shot before killing the man, is dealing with the physical and emotional trauma from the event. Kutcher is tipped off about the weapons deal and places Harlon under surveillance, who then discovers that Shotgun is Kutcher's informant. After Harlon transfers his finances to his wife, she brings Joshua to meet him against his wishes, and has a brief emotional breakdown after realizing his son has grown up without him. On the day of the deal, Harlon evades his surveillance and kills Shotgun at his home. Kutcher finds Shotgun dead and discovers his cellphone has a message about the pending gun deal. 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 their vehicle. As the deal closes, the police, ATF, and SWAT—alerted by Harlon's text—surround the gangs; only Howie manages to escape 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 The Beast in exchange for a full pardon. Harlon is returned to Corcoran where The Beast, having learned Harlon alerted authorities to the location of the raid, tells him his family will be killed. Harlon had anticipated The Beast's retaliation and concealed a handcuff key and a razor blade in a butt safe. He frees himself and confronts The Beast in his cell. After a brief fight, Harlon cuts The Beast's jugular vein and kills him. He orders a prison guard to report that he acted in self-defense. He then assumes The Beast's place as gang leader.

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. Harlon is moved emotionally as he looks at pictures of his former life with his family, and accepts that sacrificing his own freedom to kill The Beast was the only way he could protect his family from his enemies. Harlon then goes outside to exercise 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 U.S. 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 in July 2015,[14] the film's release was postponed until Saban Films acquired the U.S. distribution rights in April 2017.[15]

Principal photography 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.
  2. ^ "Shot Caller". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved October 23, 2017.
  3. ^ "LA Film Fest's Closing Night Film: Matt Spicer's 'Ingrid Goes West'". SHOOTonline. May 16, 2017. Retrieved May 16, 2017.
  4. ^ "EXCLUSIVE: 'Game of Thrones' Star Nikolaj Coster-Waldau Transforms For New Movie 'Shot Caller'". ETOnline. May 9, 2017. Retrieved May 16, 2017.
  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 Hollywood. Retrieved July 12, 2015.
  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.
  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 Hollywood. Retrieved July 12, 2015.
  8. ^ Busch, Anita (May 27, 2015). "Benjamin Bratt Joins Bold Films' 'Shot Caller', Netflix's 'Special Correspondents'". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved July 12, 2015.
  9. ^ Kroll, Justin (June 19, 2015). "Holt McCallany Joins Prison Thriller 'Shot Caller' (EXCLUSIVE)". Variety. Retrieved July 12, 2015.
  10. ^ N'Duka, Amanda (April 30, 2015). "Rose McGowan, 2 Others Cast In 'Lower Bay'; Juan Pablo Raba Joins 'Shot Caller'". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved July 12, 2015.
  11. ^ Kit, Borys (June 29, 2015). "'Daredevil' Actor Joins Nikolaj Coster-Waldau in 'Shot Caller'". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved July 12, 2015.
  12. ^ Sun, Rebecca (June 29, 2015). "Michael Landes Joins Matthew McConaughey in 'Gold' (Exclusive)". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved July 12, 2015.
  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.
  14. ^ Lieberman, David; Busch, Anita (March 18, 2016). "Relativity Media & Ryan Kavanaugh: A Walk Down Memory Lane Of Hype". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved May 16, 2017.
  15. ^ McNary, Dave (April 11, 2017). "Saban Picks Up 'Shot Caller' Starring 'Game of Thrones' Actor Nikolaj Coster-Waldau". Variety. Retrieved May 16, 2017.
  16. ^ Gomez, Adrian (May 21, 2015). "'Shot Caller' to begin filming in NM with 'GoT' lead". Albuquerque Journal. Retrieved July 12, 2015.
  17. ^ Erica (June 20, 2015). "Casting Call in New Mexico for "Shot Caller" Feature Film". Auditions Free. Retrieved July 12, 2015.
  18. ^ "Shot Caller". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved February 4, 2020.
  19. ^ "Shot Caller". Metacritic. Retrieved January 31, 2020.
  20. ^ Debruge, Peter (August 18, 2017). "Film Review: 'Shot Caller'". Variety. Retrieved January 31, 2020.

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