Saturday, July 29, 2017

Review of SHOT CALLER: Prisoner Psychology

July 27, 2017




This particular film is not getting any buzz at all. With a nondescript title and only a couple of known actors in its cast, it looks like just another B action movie. However, I am glad I did not allow this first impression to stop me from checking this film out. This was actually one well-written prison drama which gives us insights about how big time criminals think and operate within the prison system. 

Jacob Harlon is a well-off businessman with a happy family. One night, he figures in a bad DUI vehicular accident which caused a fatality, causing him to get convicted for some jail time. Immersed in the brutality in prison, he gradually gets hardened up to become Money, one of the most ruthless, most feared inmates inside. When he finally gets paroled, he discovered that he still could not get away from the "friends" he made inside. Could he keep his wife Kate and son Josh safe, or will it be better just to lose them?

Danish actor Nicolaj Coster-Waldau, whom we better know as Jamie Lannister on "Game of Thrones," played the challenging role of Jacob Harlon. At first, I thought he was playing double roles here as this film did not tell the story in a linear manner. First we see Coster-Waldau either as a tattooed tough jailbird with an intimidating handlebar mustache or as a mild-mannered executive as the story flashed back and forth between these two guys, until it was clear this was the same guy at different times in his life.

The rest of the cast were mostly tough-looking character actors playing criminals either in cahoots with or working against Money. Jon Bernthal played Shotgun, a crook caught between loyalties to crooks and cops. Holt McCallany played an Alpha prison head honcho aptly named "The Beast" who interestingly loved philosophy books. The final fates of these two men were some of the most intense scenes in the whole film.

The script and direction of Ric Roman Waugh is, for me, the best part of this film. Waugh was first known for his stunt work in several actions films, from "Lethal Weapon 2" (1989) to "Daybreak" (2000). Later, he would also write and direct his own films, mostly dealing about crime, starting with "In the Shadows" (2001), "Felon" (2008) and "Snitch" (2013), and this one. After "Shot Caller," he is working on "Angel Has Fallen", the third film after the Olympus and London terrorist attack films.

I liked how Waugh expounded on the criminal thought processes in and out of prison through the eyes of Jacob Harlon -- a family man, an unintentional inmate, a reluctant gang member, an eventual crime boss. The story telling was engaging as Waugh brought his compelling script to life with strong imagery and interesting editing choices. Despite its unmistakable B-movie vibe, I actually found this film to be an unexpectedly good find. 7/10. 

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