Plot: Before he was Money, member of a white supremacist crew and a violent criminal, he was Jacob (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), an investment banker with a great life, great job, and a loving family. But a moment of inattention led to a severe car accident, the death of his friend, and because he had a few drinks that night, a conviction on manslaughter and DUI charges. The world inside the prison changed him, as he was forced to defend himself and seek safety in numbers, the kind of protection that doesn’t come free and pushed him to unchain a more violent side of himself. He would become a powerful player in his crew, have his sentence extended, and learn that his obligations to the crew wouldn’t end when his sentence did. Now that Money is back on the streets, he is tasked to help secure an arms deal for thousands of illegal weapons, while his son and ex wife try to forge a new relationship with him. Is Money capable to leaving the criminal life behind, or have his experiences made him irredeemable?
Entertainment Value: Shot Caller was a movie that grabbed my attention as soon I learned about it, as I love prison movies and I was curious to see more of Nikolaj Coster-Waldau’s work. His performance here is remarkable and proves he is more than the soap opera action star from Game of Thrones. His transformation from upstanding citizen to prison hard man is excellent, as he buries his more human side and conveys a sense of total loss. A lot of prison movies try to capture that feeling of a person being consumed by the experiences inside the walls, but few do it as well as Shot Caller and Coster-Waldau’s performance deserve most of the credit. The supporting cast is good as well, with Jon Bernthal, Benjamin Bratt, Holt McCallany, Omari Hardwick, Lake Bell, and others, so it is a deep ensemble. The narrative is interesting, but I have to think a lot of viewers will find it oppressive and relentlessly bleak, which it is. This is not so much a tale of redemption as a tale of loss, which is a powerful experience, but more casual audiences will likely feel drowned in the abyss. But if you appreciate darker dramas, Shot Caller is well recommended.
An early scene features a topless hooker, but that’s all the nakedness. A prison movie without gratuitous shower scenes or violent rapes is rare, but the movie showcases the system’s impacts in other ways. A rape does happen, but it is off screen and in the background, as Jacob tries to ignore his fellow inmate’s abuse and just mind his own business. The movie has sudden, brutal violence, but keeps the blood just out of our field of vision. As you’d expect from a prison movie, the shanks are fast and furious, but we just see the aftermath, like the blood on the shirts and such. But it is done with such enthusiasm and force, the violence still retains an impact. So not much blood, but who doesn’t vicious, frantic shank sessions? The dialogue is well written and performed, but has a dead serious tone and as such, rarely even has minor comic moments, let alone outlandish situations. So the score is low, but that just means the writing isn’t wild or outrageous, or filled with quotable lines, the movie’s writing is quite good otherwise. The sheer unrelenting darkness of Shot Caller is worth a point, but otherwise not much insanity unfolds. The movie is serious and tells a bleak tale, so it makes sense that camp and wackiness are non existent.
Overall Insanity: 1/10