Monday, November 6, 2017

Film Review: Shot Caller (2017)

Shot Caller (Review)
United States/2017
Format Viewed for Review: Google Movies
Netflix Streaming: No
Amazon Prime: No

"...a suspenseful, emotional, violent, and raw experience."

After a deadly car accident, Jacob Harlon (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) is sent to prison where he becomes institutionalized...

Shot Caller follows Jacob Harlon in a nonlinear story. The plot frequently jumps between past and present. In the present, Jacob, known as Money by his gang, is released from prison. He immediately begins working on a deal orchestrated by his boss, The Beast, who still resides in prison. The deal: selling a cache of illegal firearms to a violent gang. In the past, Harlon is depicted as a successful family man who made a mistake: he drank, he flew past a red light, and his actions killed his best friend. He ends up in prison where he realizes it's either kill or be killed—be a warrior or a victim. Harlon decides to be a warrior. The storytelling allows the film to stay on its feet throughout its entire runtime—it never feels boring. The story is simple, but it works. It does, however, lead to an unbelievable ending. Yes, I know, I know: it's just a movie! I just felt like it pushed the realms of reality a bit too far.

Shot Caller is a great film, though. Like I said, it's a movie that kept me engaged and entertained from beginning to end—all 115 minutes or so—thanks to its strong writing and storytelling. It's a suspenseful, emotional, violent, and raw experience. It's an uncompromising depiction of institutionalization. Yes, some of its themes are heavy-handed, but it's not something we see often in movies. And, although heavy-handed, it does ask some compelling questions, such as: can a good man be turned into a criminal in prison? Although the ending was on the unbelievable side, everything else is dealt with using a steady hand. It feels brutally honest, despite its dramatizations.

Nikolaj Coster-Waldau is a great leading man. He has great range, from a loving family man to a ruthless thug. Omari Hardwick, who plays a parole officer in the film, also performed well. The entire cast was great. The film was shot well and the music matched the tone of the film. The movie was written and directed by Ric Roman Waugh. Waugh's writing may be considered heavy-handed and blunt, but it is well-intentioned. His depiction may not be a hundred-percent accurate, but it's close enough—and that's good for a movie. (It would be bad if this were a documentary, though.) Waugh also excels in his direction, creating a consistent pace, masterfully weaving together a story of a broken man, and crushing the audience with some fantastic suspense.

Overall, Shot Caller is a great film. I had a few issues with the last fifteen or so minutes, but it is otherwise a great piece of crime fiction—fiction that strongly reflects our reality. If you're looking for a tense crime thriller or a film with compelling themes, or both, this is for you.

Score: 8/10
Parental Guide: Strong violence and blood.

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