White supremacy somehow manages to lead to redemption in riveting biopic
I’ve seen movies about drugs (“Requiem for a Dream”), movies about cyberbullying (“Disconnect”), and movies about mass murders (“Natural Born Killers”), and I’ve seen movies about racist skinheads. You know, the white men with the tattoos and shaved heads. There are demons and angels possessed in this movie, and it really eats you up.
“Skin,” written and directed by Guy Nattiv, is actually based on the true story of Bryon “Pitbull” Widner, who went from racist to human. Jamie Bell portrays him with the profound dialogue, serious make-up, and true ambitions. This is one of his best, most ambitious performances in years.
And speaking of which, there are gaps in the movie, when Bryon undergoes painful tattoo removals on his body. That’s a lot of burning, and it lasted for days in various procedures. Believe me, you’ll be glad you didn’t get tattoos. Although, I bet Ed Helms’ Stu wishes he could say the same thing in “The Hangover-Part 2.” And the joke when Bart Simpson says “Ow, quit it” never gets old. But, this movie is not at all a comedy. This is serious stuff.
He’s more well-meaning than the other racists, because of how he defends his dog, and single mom Julie Price’s (Danielle Macdonald) three kids (Zoe Margaret Colletti, Kylie Rogers, and Colbi Gannett) at a hate rally. He tells her his story of how his fascist leader-the Hammer (Bill Camp)-picked him up off the street, and made him who he was. And at the same time, he sympathizes her goal of receiving a better life.
Julie wants to protect her girls from the hate group, and gives Bryon the choice of redemption or losing them. Fed up with all the horrors his clan engages him in, he decides to redeem himself. But that wouldn’t be easy, considering his club begins threatening him and his newfound family.
The movie’s cast also includes Vera Farmiga as the Hammer’s wife Shareen; Mike Colter as activist Daryle Lamont Jenkins, and pretty much the only African-American who believes Bryon can change; and Daniel Henshall as another member who threatens to take control of the Hammer’s club.
Guy Nattiv crafts “Skin” with all the intentions of white supremacists, by representing all the hate and evil they bring on to people and themselves. People are stabbed, shot, burned, and even a dog gets murdered in the process. And even if the main character wants to go clean, he still has to do most of the suffering in the movie. The violence and dialogue are sincere, and the stars are well-acted.
Bell delivers a bold performance as a kid from the wrong side of the tracks, destined to make it on the right side. Macdonald, coming on the success of “Patti Cake$” and “Dumplin,” has proven herself to be a fine young actress, especially when she’s given a single mom role. Colter provides the goods as the main activist. And both Camp and Farmiga represent racist role models with strong will and temptation.
There are some violent and stressful situations, but the movie does an excellent job presenting the environment and reality of the white power movement’s members. It’s evil, it’s hateful, it’s considerate, and it’s complicated. That’s what “Skin” is really about.
Opens This Friday in New York and Los Angeles