For over a century, there has been a continuing debate regarding the role of the criminal justice system in terms of punishment and rehabilitation. Those of a conservative persuasion largely see the prison system as a deterrent. A place to punish offenders for their crimes. Liberals would argue that the emphasis should be on rehabilitation. To reform offenders for the benefit of society. The system is often skewed towards the former, especially in America. Lower level offenders often become hardened by their time inside. This is the premise for Ric Roman Waugh’s new film Shot Caller.

Jacob (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) is a successful stockbroker with a happy family life. One mistake will change his life forever. Whilst under the influence he runs a red light and causes an accident which kills his best friend. He’s incarcerated in a maximum security prison for violent offenders. Conscious of the need to show he can handle himself, when a black inmate reacts violently to him on his first day in the yard, Jacob attacks him. This draws the attention of a white supremacist gang, who take him under their wing assuming he’s racist; gifting him the nickname ‘Money’. Upon release, he continues to work for the Aryan Brotherhood to protect his (now) ex-wife (Lake Bell) and their son.

Most of Ric Roman Waugh’s films revolve around the subjects of crime, incarceration and gangs. However, Shot Caller is easily his best and most focussed work. Coster-Waldau delivers a singularly powerful and ferociously determined performance. His unblinking and unflinching descent into institutionalised crime is breath-taking. Shot Caller is taut, kinetic and muscular film-making. It takes a subject and injects it with enough steroids to fuel a riot.

Shot Caller is in cinemas and available on digital download now. It’s released on Blu-ray and DVD by Altitude Film Entertainment on 26 December.