Shot Caller begins by seeing our hero Jacob (nicknamed Manny in prison) as an apparently dangerous criminal, in a maximum security prison cell, with tattoos showing his affiliation with a racist ideology. Time moves back ten years and we see him as a family man, a member of the Wall Street elite, who lives a comfortable life without problems. It is inevitable to ask what happened, so this man has become a criminal since the prison guards were reluctant. The film therefore has two narratives – in the first, with the central story, we see the events after his release from prison, while the second is reserved for events in the past.
The central story takes place in the present, after the transformation of our character into a dangerous criminal, and develops around the purchase and sale of weapons in which Mani is the main intermediary. We soon realize that, although he is on parole, Mani has no intention of changing his lifestyle, which is in contrast to the character of Jacob, who acts as a benefactor and who cares about his family. One gets the impression that the protagonist has indulged in the tragedy that befell him and that this is definitely not the type of film in which a former prisoner tries to return to a normal life.
The fate that befell Jacob can certainly be reduced to the term tragedy. Due to a combination of circumstances, the situation in which he happened to be, and due to certain decisions, Jacob became Manny, a mysterious crime scene dedicated to work, without a motive visible to us. Although it is the same character, it is difficult for them to have common traits, and all the good that Jacob possessed was systematically destroyed in prison. Mani has long since abandoned everything he was before prison, renounced his family, and his new mysterious plan is the focus of the main narrative.
I love movies and series where the action takes place in prison, so the segment from the past was much more interesting to me. It is shown quite effectively how a decent man in such circumstances literally changes his personality. The transformation of Jacob into Mania is a direct product of a system in which people are left to fend for themselves in a dangerous world of criminals, without any intention or attempt by the authorities to change such people. Criminals do their jobs both inside and outside the prison, and the specific laws and codes that govern between prisoners can often get the worst out of a person at any moment.
Koster-Waldau did a superb job in interpreting his character. His transformation is best seen in changing narratives, because in addition to physical diversity, we also see little things like facial expressions that speak of the degree of his brokenness. However, I personally did not like the fact that we do not have an insight into his motive for actions after his release from prison. We find out everything in the very end, which left me a little confused. I understand that the motives related to criminal ethics are completely valid in that world, but I must admit that I expected something more – this way the segment of narratives in the present does not differ too much from an ordinary crime thriller.