It’s bad enough to be incarcerated, but it’s even worse when you realize your life ceases you know it. The humiliation, the fights, the struggle just to start alive or not be physically violated is a reality many inmates across the country deal with as routinely as brushing one may brush their teeth. But, here in California gangs in prison make up 1% of the population and are responsible for 30% of the murders. It’s a culture where most of these men (part of a sector called Aryan Brotherhood ) are serving life without parole so they have NOTHING to lose.
Shot Caller lasers in on the life of a very successful banker, Jacob Harlon (Nikolaj Coster Waldau), who because of one too many drinks lands in prison leaving behind a wife (Lake Bell) and young son (Jonathon McClendon). When his life shifts him into a man he no longer recognizes, family becomes non-existent and Jacob moves into a life full of violence, drugs and the need to constantly watch your back as “Money.” Upon his release, chased by law enforcement and threatened by his incarcerated “protectors,” Money orchestrates one last crime. The ruthless process of fulfilling his obligations also becomes his path to sacrifice, retribution and self-definition
No stranger to the prison world, Director Ric Roman Waugh, has produced the first film of this festival I am certain will have a much celebrated life beyond June 22nd. It’s a roller-coaster ride of epic proportions and will leave you never wanting to visit a prison in your lifetime. Shot Caller boasts a very impressive cast including Game of Thrones’ Nikolaj Coster Waldau, Lake Bell, Benjamin Bratt, Omari Hardwick, Jeffrey Donovan, Brendan Kelly and Jon Bernthal as Shotgun.
Nikolaj Coster Waldau is no stranger to violent roles and now I see why. He’s exceptional at executing whatever it takes to make the character as realistic as possible. The scene where he is doing squats with a grown man on his shoulders is bananas! Omari Hardwick – well what can I say – he’s pretty and he’s an amazing actor with grit and guts. But for me, the star of this film was really Lake Bell as the wife who has been left behind struggling to find a way to move on from the man she once loved. Mostly known for her comedy prowess, Bel, l like my girl Sarah Silverman, blaze the screen when they step out of their comfort zone. I, for one, am elated she did.
It was a love fest for Ric Roman Waugh as members of the cast called him a “soldier of authenticity.” Ric stated that he made this film to shed light on two subjects he feels don’t get enough attention PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) and prison reform. Calling prison a “24-7 world of fear”, Waugh went on to state that “fear will eat your soul” when one is incarcerated and treated less than a human being.”
The LA Film Festival runs now through June 22nd. For the schedule and more info click on www.filmindependent.org