SHOT CALLER Unites Game of Thrones and The Punisher in Prison

Game of Thrones’ Jamie Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) heads to prison to take on The Punisher, or is it Shane from The Walking Dead, (Jon Bernthal). An independent prison movie that is out now on limited release at selected cinemas across Australia from Icon Film Distribution. SHOT CALLER deserves a viewing, it is definitely one of the better prison movies in years. Kernel John reviews this MA15+  movie that runs for 121mins. Enjoy John’s thoughts……all the best….JK.


GAME OF THRONES has been good to us, has it not?  So many years of fantastic story, well-constructed characters, boobs, amazing special effects and incredible action scenes.  But more than all of this, it has presented to the world a marvellous set of truly talented actors, who whether well known before or not, have now become solid household names.  One such performer is the ever stellar Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (Ser Jamie Lannister), whom you can now see in his latest feature-length film, SHOT CALLER.


Shot Caller Nikolaj Coster-Waldau image
Nikolaj Coster-Waldau



A decade into what was originally a 2 year and 8 month prison sentence, family man stockbroker turned tattooed white supremacist Jacob “Money” Harlon is finally being released from The Big House.  Having done his time and then some for the negligent murder of his best friend, Money finds himself free in body, but still incarcerated in mind and spirit.  Though now on the outside, Money continues to do the bidding of his gangland associates still locked up.

Competing with the desire to reconnect with his family, his fears for their safety, and doing the bidding of his Aryan brothers, Money finds himself torn between his two worlds, unable to sit comfortably in either, and knowing that a confrontation between these dichotomous sides is inevitable.


Shot Caller Nikolaj Coster-Waldau image
Nikolaj Coster-Waldau



Coster-Waldau is the true standout of SHOT CALLER for me.  He is the perfect balance of hard and soft, playing his role differently depending on the incoming stimuli.  You learn early on that Money is a true anti-hero, torn between staying the course of the man he has become, and maintaining his distance from the life he used to lead.  Though other gang members defer to him, some almost reverently, you never really get the impression that Money is comfortable with his station, though he plays the role of criminal faultlessly, lest suspicion be drawn on his motives.

There are some very emotional scenes with his family, especially his son, that tug at the heartstrings of the audience.  For a supposed hardened gang leader, Coster-Waldau’s portrayal of Money does indeed draw the occasional tear.


The supporting cast are just as committed, delivering performances that belie this film’s $3 million budget.  Jon Bernthal (THE PUNISHER), Jeffrey Donovan (BURN NOTICE), Holt McCallany and Emory Cohen all shine in their respective roles.  Each play a key part in bringing the storyline of SHOT CALLER together and act as very different foils to Money, showing off a multitude of aspects of this character.


Shot Caller Nikolaj Coster-Waldau and Jon Bernthal image
Jon Bernthal



Director Ric Roman Waugh (SNITCH) delivers an incredibly engaging crime thriller, which he also wrote.  The dialogue between characters is sharp and to the point, indicative of the environment our stars find themselves in.  The cinematography and score are likewise wonderful, capturing and enhancing each scene, evoking the appropriate amount of suspense to keep audience members engaged.

Of special note are some of the moments with Money, where Coster-Waldau is shown embracing his freedom from prison in the most simplistic yet powerful of ways.  One such otherwise ordinary scene has him driving down the highway, until on a whim he puts his hand through the open window to feel the wind flowing through his fingers.  The moment lasts all of five seconds but the look of peace and joy on Money’s face really drives the point home.


Shot Caller Nikolaj Coster-Waldau and Jon Bernthal image
Nikolaj Coster-Waldau and Jon Bernthal



The one negative point I will make about this film is its ending.  Throughout SHOT CALLER, the story unfolds in an understandable way.  Though the circumstances may have been unfortunate for Money, his actions are fairly consistent with the obstacles presented to him and with his own internal conscience.  Towards the latter half of the film, his true nature is revealed and it is a vindicating moment for the audience.

However soon after, it is shown that Money’s final stand was all part of an elaborate scheme that would have made the convoluted plans of Heath Ledger’s Joker in THE DARK KNIGHT seem crude.  There were a number of ways that this movie could have ended, but in his drive to stay the course of a morally dark world, I believe Waugh missed a greater opportunity for redemption in Money’s story that would have better tied in and rewarded his last great act, even if it meant for a happier conclusion than our protagonist deserved.


SHOT CALLER is a wonderfully gripping tale of a man on the edge of chaos, struggling to fight both his physical and spiritual demons, in a land where life is cheap, people are pawns to the gang bosses and police alike, and one misstep will place everything you hold dear in the firing line.





A lifelong lover of the silver screen, Kernel John strives to engage and entertain his audience through the shameless use of humour in his reviews, even when it probably isn’t warranted. When not musing for Salty, you can often find John bouncing between his extreme states of either puppy watching down by the beach, or reflecting on the deepest mysteries of the Universe.

** All images courtesy of various sources on Google or direct from the distributor/publisher – credit has been given to photographers where known – images will be removed on request.