Shot Caller doesn’t hit the screens until August 18th, but was released on DirecTV on July 20th. Ric Roman Waugh’s latest film was actually completed in 2015, but the release was postponed to 2017 due to Relativity Media filing for bankruptcy in July 2015. Thankfully, everyone gets a chance to see Nikol Coster-Waldau turn from family man to ruthless gang leader this August.
Ric Roman Waugh’s films Shot Caller and Snitch has a few of the same actors. Jon Bernthal and Benjamin Bratt were in both and Chris Browning was both in Shot Caller and Waugh’s 2008 Felon. Because his latest film hasn’t been released yet in theaters, I’m going to be incredibly vague about it, but focus on where this succeeded and Snitch well…fell short.
Let me start with the fact that I loved Shot Caller. I was able to see it recently and it was fantastic. Waldau was harrowing in his role as Jacob “Money” Harlon. Previously a man who had it all, Money is thrown into prison after a night of drinking resulted in the death of his friend. While he should have gotten out within two years, his involvement with a prison gang added years to his sentence. There were times that Money’s actions were questionable and a few aspects of the film were slightly unrealistic, but it still was a gritty tale of how the prison system can change a man.
Jon Bernthal’s character, Frank “Shotgun” was also fantastic. One of my favorite characters of his. I felt in many aspects, this adaptation was different than many other roles we’ve seen from Bernthal. Of course, we got the tough guy with the snarling growl, but there were other times Frank was on edge and paranoid, which I found enjoyable from Bernthal.
Snitch is not directly a shot for shot comparison to Shot Caller. It does, though, feature a man who goes to greater lengths than you would expect to protect his family. I will say that Ric Roman Waugh has a flair for dramatization. Whereas Money goes to the lengths he does for his family, Dwayne Johnson’s John Matthews puts himself in the frontline of danger for his son. When his son is at risk of going away to prison for at least ten years on a drug bust (his first offense), Matthews offers to work directly with the Feds in taking down a large drug cartel. Mind you, the concerned father is the owner of a labor company and has no law enforcement experience; nor any prior convictions himself.
While I certainly enjoyed Snitch, the movie felt like it was using an all too familiar recipe for an action drama film. One just made to make money. Let’s have a loose plot to have an excuse to shoot bad guys, act like badasses, and involve drugs. And there’s nothing wrong with this formula, but Shot Caller felt more like it had an actual story to tell as opposed to Snitch.
As I sat to determine what the real reason why I thought of the two films to be so much different than the other, I had to be honest with myself. The actors. Nikol Coster-Waldau is a fantastic actor. With seven seasons of Game of Thrones under his belt, the Danish star is incredibly talented. Him as “Money” was a smart decision by Ric Roman Waugh. Unfortunately, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson could not deliver the idea that I’m sure Waugh had for John Matthews. Not that the former WWE star isn’t good for blockbuster action movies, but for anything deeper than the surface, I would say he falls short.
That being said, don’t take my word for it. Watch Snitch. It’s still a good movie with some nail biting tension and badass fight scenes. And make sure you get to watch Shot Caller on August 18th, because it’s seriously one of the better movies I’ve seen all year.