Shot Caller (2017)

<strong class="MovieTitle">Shot Caller</strong> (2017)

(Netflix Streaming, August 2018) Prison movies hold an everlasting fascination, and perhaps the biggest thrill for law-abiding audiences is to be placed in a situation where an ordinary guy is sent to prison, and then learns how it works well enough to succeed inside the walls as well as outside. So it is that with Shot Caller, we follow an ordinary guy who, thanks to some fatal drunk driving, is sent to prison for a short while. Unfortunately, he has the bad luck of being sent to prison in the late-2000s, a time of supermaxes, racist jailhouse gangs and reprisals on the families of convicts. Meaning that once he gets on the treadmill, he has no choice but to go the distance. It gets dark. Darker than Felon (2008), although not as dark as the stomach-churning Brawl in Cell Block 99 (2017). Nikolaj Coster-Waldau impressively handles the transition between architect intellectual and muscle-bound prison gang leader. Unlike prison movies of an earlier era, Shot Caller depicts a sordid environment that worsens its inhabitants but doesn’t seem to call for reforms, letting the story speak for itself. It’s familiar material (as I’ve said: there have been a lot of prison movies over the years) but it’s handled competently and the ending manages to find just the right spot between tragedy and hope.

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