Jaime Lannister goes to prison.


Shot Caller is a recent prison drama starring Jamie Lannister (I know that isn’t his real name), who plays as Jacob/Money. Jacob is a well-to-do Wall Street broker who accidentally kills his friend while driving drunk. He is then sentenced to several years in prison. Once there, he realizes he must side with a violent gang in order to be protected from the harsh realities of prison life. The film works as a compelling tale of failed morality, but also examines the situation in a refreshing light.

When Jacob first arrives to prison the brutal reality sets in. Another newcomer is sexually assaulted the first night, and it is clear that being alone in prison is simply not an option. The Aryan Brotherhood (note: I am not sure if they were Brotherhood or another white supremacist gang) takes notice of Jacob, and slowly takes him under their wing.

It is easy to say that siding with neo-Nazis is never acceptable—this shouldn’t be a provocative statement at all. However, the film does well to show us that Jacob doesn’t have a lot of options. The broken and violent nature of our penal system encourages the worst of people instead of rehabilitation. Prisons seem to work as criminal college more than anything else. Jacob slowly becomes Money, a hardened killer who gets a continually increasing sentence as he rises through the ranks. Once released, he begins to enact a major weapons transaction that has state and local law enforcement following his every move.

The portions inside the prison interested me more than the suspense tale on the outside. Both are good, but the social commentary within the prison forces the viewer to consider uncomfortable truths about how our society hangs together. Money is played fantastically, and we are treated to a wide cast of side characters who are often as terrifying as they are compelling.

The film presents itself in a disrupted timeline and by the end of it you will see why they chose to do so. The biggest gripe I have with the timeline after seeing the whole thing is that I can’t divulge much about the plot without giving away major spoilers. Jacob’s transformation is interesting, and proves that Waldau has a range far greater than simply a major character in a syndicated series. It is hard to not pay attention to him—and that is a good thing.

Where I think the film works the best is in what is not explicitly said. For a gang of white supremacists, we hear almost no racial dialogue. There is obvious racial tensions, but the rhetoric and grandstanding of the gang is simply put to the side. It comes down to money, power, and protection. The lower leaders of the gang are played greatly, and they all fit into the idea that they were once something very different before being corrupted by prison. Their dysfunction in society seems groomed carefully rather than anything natural.

The film is not without its flaws though. Perhaps the largest being Money’s seemingly overnight shift from low level member to elite in the gang. Other members seem to vanish into the background as things go. Further, the final act of the film presents an interesting turn, but the more you think about the stranger/absurd it becomes. I still enjoyed the movie overall, but the critical bite of the first chunk vanishes in the end. We have a well acted and interesting drama. I highly suggest his one. 8.75/10.

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