No turning back.
Far from an advert for the efficacy of the US penal system, writer-director Ric Roman Waugh’s gritty prison drama Shot Caller charts the transformation of a white-collar family man into a ruthless criminal after he lands up behind bars.
Rehabilitation doesn’t get a look in when Nikolaj Coster-Waldau’s successful financier, Jacob Harlon, goes to prison after inadvertently causing a fatal traffic accident while driving under the influence. The only way to survive, he quickly learns, is to join a prison gang. Once in, there’s no turning back.
Waugh keeps up the mood of grim fatalism from first to last, cutting back and forth between parallel narratives showing the events leading to Jacob’s incarceration, his brutal rise through the prison ranks and his actions following his release. Things get more than a little contrived as Jacob, now tattooed gangster ‘Money’, sets up an intricate criminal scheme designed to secure his family’s safety. However, his strategy doesn’t just involve dodging the police but also pushing away his dismayed wife (Lake Bell) and son (Jonathan McClendon).
But the film’s grim portrayal of prison life – right down to its arcane rituals and resonant slang (‘Who has the keys to the yard?’) – rings terrifyingly true.
Certificate 15. Runtime 120 mins. Director Ric Roman Waugh
Shot Caller available on Blu-ray, DVD & Digital from Altitude Film Distribution.