Before the censorship Hay’s Code came into effect, a movie called I’m a fugitive from a chain gang was published in 1932. Nominated for three Oscars chain gang shocked audiences with his portrayal of James Allen (Paul Muni), an unemployed and impoverished man falling on hard times. Arrested for a crime he didn’t commit, he’s being forced into a punishment that no longer exists: a chain gang.
Chain gangs appealed to the government. With inmates forced to do hard labor for free, infrastructure in rural areas improved. The shackles also minimized the need for jailers, but they were fundamentally cruel. The chain caused painful ulcers and harmful infections, leaving some prisoners vulnerable to others.
But inhumanity is hard to eradicate. The chain gang concept even made a comeback in 1995, because when someone comes up with an effective idea for cruel punishment, it’s rarely quickly chased away. And that’s the general conceit behind it caller shota 2017 thriller film directed by Ric Roman Waugh.
The film begins by introducing us to Money (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, takes a break from game of Thrones), who looks like a villain. Not only is he in prison, his body is covered in white power tattoos. He writes a letter to his son, but he doesn’t worry too much about sending it since he will be fired. He is welcomed with open arms by Shotgun (Jon Bernthal), who is also covered in tattoos, and clean-skinned Howie (Emory Cohen), who, despite his successes as a soldier in Afghanistan, is easily intimidated by Money.
These guys love Money and promise to outfit him with everything he needs outside of the clinking. They go to a party full of beautiful women, where Shotgun tells Money to make his choice. But Money isn’t interested in sleeping with anyone, at least not without going on a date first. Before any romance can be ignited, a shootout ensues, in which Money’s would-be lover is injured.
This is a film about tough men making tough decisions and doing tough things and apart from Money’s wife Kate (Lake Bell) women are mostly in the background while men describe what needs to be done. But wait, Money has a wife?
Money wasn’t always money, you know. He was once a successful stockbroker named Jacob Harlon. Jacob Harlon had a loving wife who wanted to be a designer, a son who didn’t mean much to him, and a best friend at the company, Tom (new girl Max Gruenfeld).
It all gets thrown out the window when Jacob gets distracted and crashes his car on a double date night, killing Tom and another driver. Jacob fears the worst in court and accepts a plea deal to two years in prison. Thus begins Jacob’s transformation into Money.
Jacob quickly decides that he must hold his own in prison lest he become a victim of the pervasive prison violence. When provoked by a black inmate, he stands his ground and hits back. This impresses the white supremacists in the courtyard, particularly Shotgun and Bottles (Jeffrey Donovan), a gunman for the villainous gang. Jacob agrees, telling himself the decision is all about survival. They start calling him Money, a reference to his past as an employee.
But joining the gang doesn’t simplify things. Money soon finds himself involved with other gangs, and stabbing an inmate adds nine years to his sentence. All a stunned Kate can do is watch in the courtroom as Money tells her to forget he ever existed.
caller shot eventually, his two timelines merge and outside of prison, Money is awash in betrayal. Shotgun is acting dodgy and Money orders the impressionable Howie not to follow anyone but him. Eventually, it becomes clear that Shotgun is acting as an informant for Money’s parole officer, Kutcher (Omari Hardwick). Army of the Dead), trying to prevent an impending arms deal.
This is the story of a man who becomes more and more comfortable being given less and less freedom, and Coster-Waldau takes the film through some of its more bewildering twists and turns with a transformation that comes from his face and physicality as much as his many neo-nazi tattoos. caller shot is far from the first film to show that punishment can change a person, but a top-notch cast makes it a very good one.
caller shot streaming on Netflix through May 23.