‘One Day As A Lion’ (2023) Ending, Explained: How Does Jackie And Lola Get Billy Out Of Juvie?

Once in a while, there comes a film that is a breath of fresh air, not because it’s persistently original, but because it knows what it wants to be and it doesn’t weigh itself down with unnecessary paraphernalia. John Swab’s refreshing action comedy “One Day As A Lion” is one such film that is distinctly content with itself, and it’s the film’s self-awareness that gets to you when you’re done with it. As sweet with its surprisingly raw and rather subtle sentimentality as it is funny with the situational humor that never risks overplaying its hand, “One Day As A Lion,” in its entire duration, doesn’t falter with its disposition.


Spoilers Ahead

Plot Synopsis: What Happens In ‘One Day As A Lion’?

Jackie is just about the worst thug Dom could hire to make a guy pay for the money he owes. And when the horsebound guy is a big deal mobster who has the law in his pocket, Jackie can’t, even in his wildest dreams, intimidate him even with a gun. Caught up in the crossfire between cowboy Walter and wannabe hitman Jackie, the diner’s waitress Lola keeps as cool as one possibly can when the unfortunate gunshots kill the diner’s owner, and she’s taken hostage by Jackie. Now, here’s the deal with the poor guy. Jackie is the farthest thing from a hitman. His 15-year-old son ending up in Juvie on false charges has forced Jackie’s hand. He’s gotten his touch with his sketchy friend Dom, who works for Pauly, aka the man who Walter owes money to. Jackie himself practically grew up facing the baton in Juvie, and that was where he met, befriended, and protected Dom. He may not be winning the “Father of the Year” award anytime soon, but Jackie has always tried, in his own rather questionable ways, to take care of his son Billy. Billy’s mom, Taylor, could not be less bothered about her minor son facing actual prison time. Not being able to afford a lawyer for his son, who’s too sweet a kid to rot in jail, has made Jackie take up a job he’s no good for. First, he makes the grave mistake of giving the menacing cowboy a chance to pay his dues, then he accidentally kills the owner of the diner, and then he’s too distracted to keep track of Lola, who has taken advantage of his wildly unprofessional demeanor and has made a run for it.


How Does Lola Help Jackie?

You wouldn’t think that a hostage would voluntarily come back, especially when she has witnessed a murder. But Lola is quite the daredevil. Most importantly, she’s seen Jackie fumble and be ditzy and has concluded that he’s not really a seasoned criminal. So instead of getting herself out of the equation, she joins Jackie in his quest to save his son from doing time in Juvie. She even brings him to her house, which is shockingly lush for a diner waitress. But as she explains to a jittery Jackie, she isn’t rich, but her mother is. It isn’t only the goodness of her heart that compels Lola to help the hopeless guy out. There’s something she stands to gain from faking a marriage with him. Daughter of the locally infamous “black widow,” with four rich and very dead husbands who have left their fortunes behind, Lola is faced with but one condition that keeps her from accessing her mother’s money. She needs to be married to get her hands on the bank her mother has made on the backs of her four supremely rich husbands. It’s not that the cancer-stricken Valerie has been the best at making life choices, but her disapproval of her daughter, who once went off to Costa Rica to start an acting school only to fail and come back, has taught the mother better than giving Lola access to the fortune. Valerie is quite the character. Her father makes sure of his daughter’s intended’s chivalrous values by making him rush out for crab cakes and a pack of smokes. To fool a woman of her life experience isn’t a cakewalk, and Jackie foresees failure a mile away. So he chooses to come clean about his need for money, hoping that the old woman would find it in her heart to help a kid out. And thankfully, Jackie was right in doing so, considering Valerie does soften to the mention of 15-year-old Billy and asks Jackie to get hold of his case file if he wants the money. 

What’s Going On Between The Mob Rivals?

Dom stuck his neck out when he asked his boss to do his friend a favor. Now that Pauly has lost both his money and his face in front of Walter, he’s not about to let Jackie get off that easy. The trouble is that Pauly has realized that he’s way in over his head. There’s no way he can contest Walter with power or even money, for that matter. The only means through which Pauly has a shot at getting his money back is if he makes Jackie take the fall and face prison for killing the diner owner. Tracking Jackie is a whole other ordeal. Standing guard in front of Lola’s place helps them in no way when Jackie gets a whiff of the danger facing him and asks Lola to drive off elsewhere. Pretty soon, Pauly has to face the fact that he’s gotten mixed up with worse apples. Having his giant ego hurt by tuppenny goons has set off a volcano of rage in Walter, who refuses to give him back the money and also demands that Jackie is made to face prison time. Seeing that there’s no way out of this other than appeasing Walter, Pauly orders Dom to find Jackie and kill him at sight.


How Does Jackie Get Hold Of The Case File?

With money on the way, Jackie can now get in touch with the best (and the only, probably) lawyer in town, who is practically a caricature of himself. Being on the run, Jackie can’t keep track of the calls that the lawyer is likely to make. To ascertain that the calls don’t go unanswered, Jackie shows up at Taylor’s place to keep her in the loop of everything that’s going down. Just as he leaves and Dom shows up at Taylor’s place looking for him, we get a peek at their past that can explain why Dom may not be too fond of Jackie. Taylor and Dom’s relationship ended when Taylor chose Jackie over him, and from the looks of it, Dom isn’t quite over her yet. As Billy’s mom finds it best to indulge in some badly timed romance with Dom, Lola impersonates her at the Juvie and gets her hands on the case file. The next morning, Dom overhears a shockingly loud phone conversation between Taylor and Jackie and hunts him down at the motel he’s staying in. But Dom’s never been much of a fighter. It takes Jackie but a minute to render him unconscious and bolt out of the motel along with Lola.

‘One Day As A Lion’ Ending Explained – How Does Jackie And Lola Get Billy Out Of Juvie?

From the looks of it, nothing in Jackie’s life has come easy to him. But even in the muck that is the course his life has taken, Jackie refuses to be anything other than a man driven by kindness and sensibility. These are the very qualities that Lola took notice of when she first met Jackie. And even though it has only been a matter of a couple of days, Lola has only known Jackie to be the kind of guy who tries to do the right thing even when the world beats the stuffing out of him. So it comes as no surprise that someone like Lola, a girl who I doubt has ever been treated with kindness, has developed a rather romantic liking towards Jackie. And it wrecks her to be unable to help him when her mother dies, and she loses a chance at accessing the inheritance. They may have a bit of a row at first. Words are spoken, and feelings are hurt. But there’s something that makes Lola keep coming back to Jackie. And it is the wonderful fact that they’re two strangely similar people trying to make sense of life when nothing makes any sense whatsoever.


With the feud between Pauly and Walter escalating to the point of no return, the entire war becomes about saving their respective egos and establishing one’s criminal superiority over the other. When that’s what provokes two criminals, you know there will be gunfire and bodies scattered around as though the dry ground were a mattress. Pauly is done being pushed around by Walter, and he opts to take it to the next level—the absolute annihilation of Walter and his squad. The wretched aftermath of this lays the sullen soldiers of both sides to eternal rest, and Pauly kills Walter only to be arrested for murder. If you were to indulge yourself in a deeper understanding of Pauly and Walter’s ordeal, you might as well embrace it as a hopeful analogy that not always are the kings spared by the spear when their pawns aren’t treated as human beings. You could also stick to your daily dose of nihilism and take it as the futile end to a futile fight.

But I would choose to look out at the rising sun of hope, at least in the case of Billy, who, through life’s bizarre turn of events, gets free. “How?” You ask? Well, if you’re anything like me and grew up on soap operas (maybe not by choice, but an experience is an experience), you know this entire gimmick of a random person posing as an attorney all too well. And that is what saves Billy. With no money to hire the cartoonish lawyer with, Jackie takes it upon himself to impersonate one and pulls a quite convincing stunt in the courtroom. But there’s just one problem. Who would the minor stay under the supervision of even if he was let go? His mom certainly didn’t bother receiving a call, let alone showing up for her kid. Fear not, Billy! Not when Lola, who’s convinced that she’s a fantastic actress, poses as his mother in court and convinces the judge to let him go scot-free, and is stopped right as she starts adding ridiculous layers to the story. The devastatingly hopeless commentary on the American judiciary system that can’t wash its hands off an accused fast enough, Whether it’s arresting a minor without a smidgen of inquiry, throwing him in Juvie, knowing fully well that the place is the antithesis to rehabilitation, the system makes criminals out of the underprivileged faster than you can say Jack Robinson. Billy went to see a friend. Should he have had friends who were likely to kidnap a kid? No. But does the system care that Billy basically had no home or even a parent looking after him the way they should have? Also no. All they want is a show of good deed. A gesture of cleaning up the streets when all they’re doing is turning people into worse versions of themselves. From what I’ve seen of Jackie, I doubt that he would have had to choose a life of superbly flawed crimes had the Juvie not messed him up completely. Do the three ride off to sunset? You bet. Will their lives work out in Costa Rica? I sure hope so. But even with all the doubts that are bound to emerge, especially when it’s Jackie, Lola, and Billy, something tells me that they’re going to be just fine. But hold on; the obstacles on their path haven’t let up just yet. Unbeknownst to his boss’ fate, Dom is still set on carrying out the job he was given. He drives his car into theirs and beats up Jackie until he finds it difficult to even stand up. When Billy gets hold of the gun and tries to shoo off the threat, something shifts in Dom. Underneath the hard facade his job calls for, Dom is a softie who, whether he admits to it or not, loves Jackie in his own messed-up way. But most importantly, he respects Jackie’s stance of barely standing up yet having his fists cocked and decides to let the kids go off and be happy.


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Lopamudra Mukherjee
Lopamudra Mukherjeehttps://muckrack.com/lopamudra-mukherjee
Lopamudra nerds out about baking whenever she’s not busy looking for new additions to the horror genre. Nothing makes her happier than finding a long-running show with characters that embrace her as their own. Writing has become the perfect mode of communicating all that she feels for the loving world of motion pictures.

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