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With: Jamie Bell, Danielle Macdonald, Vera Farmiga, Bill Camp, Mike Colter, Daniel Henshall, Louisa Krause, Zoe Colletti, Kylie Rogers, Colbi Gannett, Mary Stuart Masterson, Russell Posner, Jenna Leigh Green, Sean Cullen
Written by: Guy Nattiv
Directed by: Guy Nattiv
MPAA Rating: R for disturbing violent content, pervasive language, some sexuality, and brief drug use
Running Time: 120
Date: 07/26/2019

Skin (2019)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Tattoo True

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Absolutely unflinching in its portrayal of white supremacist methods, this drama, based on real events, begins as ugly and disquieting but slowly evolves into a movie of compassion and significance.

In Skin, skinhead Bryon Widner (Jamie Bell) is covered in racist tattoos, each earned through committing hate crimes. He has been raised by Shareen (Vera Farmiga) and Fred 'Hammer' Krager (Bill Camp), who run a kind of camp, training young men to be white supremacists, and recruiting lost, hungry boys to become new members.

When he meets single mother Julie Price (Danielle Macdonald), who has three daughters from previous relationships, he falls in love and begins to realize he wants to renounce his hateful ways. Getting away from his vicious adoptive family will be no easy task, but it will be nothing compared to the process of restoring his skin to normal.

Skin follows writer/director Guy Nattiv's Oscar-winning short film of the same name, and although the two don't share the same story, they do share similar imagery, as well as star Macdonald. The movie drops us directly into the uncomfortable center of things, with an intense level of hate and rage. Perhaps one of the most unsettling moments comes at a rally, when the Krager character announcing he's running for office.

Somehow even more unsettling is Farmiga's smiling, baited performance as the "mother" of the boys, luring them with calculated kindnesses and pet names. Macdonald is also spectacular, as tough-as-nails as she was in Patti Cake$, but earthy and vivid. At first, the movie posits her as only a possible conquest for Bryon, but her sheer force of will turns her into a real character.

Bell does the heavy lifting, though, covered in ink and channelling all that surging violence and anger until it must have hurt. (His redemption in the movie's second half brings great relief.) Mike Colter plays the movie's hero, Daryle Lamont Jenkins, who has devoted his life to helping people escape Neo-Nazi groups. (The end credits include moving footage of the real Jenkins and the real Widner.) Skin is a tough movie, but necessary.

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