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Film / Shot Caller

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"The fact is, we all started out as someone's little angel. And a place like this forces us to become warriors or victims. Nothing in between can exist here."

Shot Caller is a 2017 drama film starring Nikolaj Coster-Waldau.

A businessman is sent to prison after killing his best friend in a drunk driving accident, where he becomes deeply involved with the Aryan Brotherhood. After being released after ten years, he is ordered to oversee a major weapons deal with the Sonora cartel, while a probation officer tries to track him down.

This film provides examples of:

  • Actor Allusion: Jon Bernthal is playing a guy called Frank, whose nickname is "Shotgun". Hmmm...
  • Beard of Evil: Most of the Aryan Brotherhood senior members are sporting a lot of facial hair.
  • Big Bad: Jerry "The Beast" Manning is the leader of the Aryan Brotherhood in the prison Jacob was sent to, and is the one who ordered him to carry out the weapons deal with the cartel under threat of killing his family.
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  • Bittersweet Ending: Jacob will spend the rest of his life in prison, but he has become the undisputed leader of the Aryan Brotherhood there to protect his family, who are ready to move on.
  • Book-Ends: The film opens with Jacob writing a letter to his son Joshua apologizing for failing him as a father and advising him to get on with his life. At the end, Joshua sends him a letter back, telling his father that he will do so and has forgiven him.
  • Chronic Villainy: Jacob continues the Aryan Brotherhood's activities as soon as he's out of prison, as the only acceptable retirement is death. Ultimately, he gives up his freedom and usurps control over the entire organization as the sole method to reliably protect his family from reprisals.
  • Death Row: The high-ranking AB member Redwood ends up on death row after killing a guard on the Beast's orders to remind them of their power.
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  • Dirty Cop: Several of the correctional officers are on the payroll of the Aryan Brotherhood and the Mexican Mafia.
  • Driver Faces Passenger: Jacob is driving tipsy with three passengers. He looks back to fist bump his friend, and crashes almost immediately. It only gets worse from there.
  • Failure Gambit: Jacob deliberately uses Shotgun's cellphone to tip off the authorities about the illegal weapons deal taking place in the Salton Sea. He gets arrested and refuses any deal they throw at him to inform on his bosses, going back to prison specifically to confront the Aryan Brotherhood leader and replace him.
  • From Nobody to Nightmare: During his time in prison, Jacob transforms from a frightened fresh inmate into one of the leading members of a powerful prison gang. This is especially obvious in his interactions with Shotgun; when they first met, Shotgun spoke down to him, but after they meet again on the outside ten years later, Shotgun is flat-out terrified of him.
  • Genius Bruiser: The highest-ranking members of the Aryan Brotherhood are incredibly cunning in addition to brutal fighters. Their leader, the Beast, reads psychology books and political treatises in his spare time, and loans Jacob some of them to hone his skills.
    The Beast: A warrior's greatest weapon is his mind.
  • Had to Come to Prison to Be a Crook: Jacob Harlon was originally convicted for two years after pleading guilty to a DUI manslaughter charge. He joins the Aryan Brotherhood in prison to survive, and is forced to get his hands dirty more than once, starting by smuggling drugs and later by murdering snitches and rival gang members. During one of these attacks in the middle of a prison riot, the act is caught on camera, and Jacob is given an additional nine years (85% mandatory) on top of his original sentence, and sent to a secure housing unit. Even after he leaves prison, he continues his activities for the gang on the outside, and orchestrates events so that he becomes the leader of the entire gang after killing his predecessor for threatening his family.
  • Hero Antagonist: Ed Kutcher is a parole officer investigating Jacob and the Aryan Brotherhood and is trying to bust their weapons deal with the Sonora cartel.
  • In Medias Res: The film opens with Jacob being released from prison after serving out a ten-year sentence, then flashes back to show the events that led to his incarceration and his subsequent time in prison, interspersed with scenes set in the present day.
  • Klingon Promotion: In the end, Jacob uses a razorblade he smuggled into the prison to overpower a corrupt guard, then unlocks the cell to Aryan leader "The Beast" so he can kill him and take over the gang after convincing the guard to falsify the death report to say that Jacob acted in self-defense.
  • Prison Rape: On his first night in prison, Jacob is witness to the gang rape of another inmate.
  • Punch-Clock Villain: Jacob joins the Aryan Brotherhood in prison for reasons of survival. While he assists in drug smuggling and carrying out hits on their enemies, at no point does Jacob display any racist views of his own. He even seems to be perturbed by Shotgun offering him a bunch of drunk girls at a party, and doesn't take advantage of them.
  • Ready for Lovemaking: At a house party organized by PEN1 gang members, Jacob briefly goes into the bathroom. When he comes out, a groupie is lying naked on the bed. He politely declines and tells her to put her clothes back on.
  • Red Baron: Any inmate with any notoriety has a nickname: Jacob (who used to be a businessman) is "Money", Frank is "Shotgun", the mid-level glasses-wearing Aryan is "Bottles", the Aryan chapter leader is "The Beast", etc.
  • Resignations Not Accepted: After Jacob becomes a high-level member of the Aryan Brotherhood, their leadership imposes that he will continue to earn for them after leaving prison, even threatening his wife and son. Jacob eventually decides that killing the leader and taking over the entire gang is the only way he can permanently ensure his family's safety.
  • Reverse Mole: Shotgun is working with Officer Kutcher to bring down Jacob and the rest of the Aryan Brotherhood, since his drug-smuggling girlfriend has a twenty year sentence hanging over her head. Jacob kills him when he finds out.
  • Sinister Shiv: Naturally, during Jacob's time in prison while being part of a major gang, he has used a shank on several occasions.
  • Tattooed Crook: Jacob acquires a large amount of white supremacist tattoos during his prison sentence displaying his gang affiliations. Obviously, the same holds true for the other higher-ranked members.
  • Villain Protagonist: Although he is a Punch-Clock Villain who only joined the group to survive in prison, Jacob is a high-ranking member of the Aryan Brotherhood and by the start of the film is so deeply involved in the organization that he can't leave it anymore.


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