A destitute young man, raised by racist skinheads and notorious among white supremacists, turns his back on hatred and violence to transform his life, with the help of a black activist and the woman he loves.
White Supremacist Bryon Widner (Jamie Bell) has a change of heart about the movement after meeting a woman (Danielle McDonald) with three daughters and with the help of the SPLC and the director of the One People’s Project, Daryle Jenkins (Mike Colter), leaves it all behind and pays a painful price to get all his tattoos removed in exchange for helping the FBI arrest his former family and friends.
The movie is inspired by true events.
A man is sitting in an OR. (Through the movie we’re shown tattoo removal procedures interspersed with the events.)
We hear buzzing, and see a boy having his hair shaved. Then we see a man, heavily tattooed, getting his hand cut, dripping blood into a horn and drinking from it. The camera moves back and there’s a bonfire. The main is in a circle with others around the bonfire and they all yell, “hail!”
It’s Columbus, Ohio in 2009 and the white supremacists we saw are marching, chanting “Blood and soil!” They clash with anti-hate demonstrators, led by Daryle Lamont Jenkins (Mike Colter), head of the One People’s Project. During the clash, a young African American boy is chased by the white supremacists and attacked, with his face slashed. The white supremacists flee.
The heavily tattooed man is hanging out with other men and his dog, when a little girl, Iggy, asks if she can pet the dog. He agrees and says the dog’s name is Boss. The girl’s Mom, Julie (Danielle McDonald) comes to get her and thanks him for letting Iggy pet Boss.
We see they’re at a Nordic Festival and that’s where Krager (Bill Camp) announces he’ll be running for Congress yet again. He faces some resistance from Jerry (Michael Villar), who says the last time he campaigned, he bankrupted the movement but he’s drowned out by all the yelling in support.
Iggy and her sisters Sierra (Kylie Rogers) and Desiree (Zoe Colletti) are then brought on stage to sing a song, all about the Norse gods. During the performance, Desiree is hit with a beverage can so they’re ushered off the stage. The heavily tattooed man jumps Jerry, who threw the can, and pounds him mercilessly. He then accompanies Julie and the girls to the car, and the girls take a picture with him and Boss. Julie tells them it was their last gig as they’re no longer involved in the movement as they used to be because “it’s not good for the girls.”
Afterward, Bryon Widner (Jamie Bell), the heavily tattooed man, kicks his girlfriend out of the house and passes out as he’s, in his words, “too fucked up.”
The police break into the house and arrest him for the attack on the young boy during the clash at the opening of the movie. An FBI agent, Jackie Marks (Mary Stuart Masterson), appears and discusses the meaning behind his many tattoos and offers him a deal: clearly spell the meaning of all the tattoos and incidents related to them, and he’ll go into witness protection while they arrest the rest of his gang. Bryon then drops his pants and shows them a tattoo across his legs (“snitches get stitches”) and passes on the deal.
Meanwhile, Jenkins is editing some video of the protests next to a young African-American boy, and freezes the image on Bryon stating that “the more tattoos on the face, the more scared they are.” He then explains that the work they do is ID’ing the white supremacists and then doxxing them so they all know what they are and they can’t hide. The boy argues they should do to him what they to the injured boy. Jenkins takes him to another room with a picture array of white supremacists he’s helped leave the movement. He explains he’s hoping he’ll make Bryon his next picture.
While he’s leaving the station, the mom of the boy he injured confronts and attacks him, getting her arrested in the process. Krager picks Bryon up and they go home.
On the way, Krager spots three white boys hanging out and approaches them. Bryon is annoyed. Krager ends up picking up Gavin (Russell Posner) and takes him home, where he gives him to his wife Shareen aka Ma (Vera Farmiga) to treat him as a son. Ma hugs him, takes him inside and shaves his head while singing a song about Freya.
Bryon hears dogs barking outside his window and sees Slayer trying to have his dog fight Boss. Bryon and Slayer fight, Krager comes out of the house and asks the reason for the dogfight. Slayer says Bryon hurt April (Louisa Krause) when he kicked her out, so now he’s hurting Bryon. Krager then says there will be fines “every time Slayer fucks up.” He then forces Slayer to apologize and Bryon to accept the apology.
Gavin then goes into the barn where Bryon is washing Boss and calls Bryon “brother.” Bryon disabuses him of the notion and says the dog has a higher ranking than Gavin in the club and to never call him “brother” again. He then questions Gavin’s reasons for joining the movement and encourages him to go back home.
Bryon calls Julie and they agree to meet at her place for a few minutes that very night. They talk and Bryon tells her how his mom was a drunk who passed away, so he ended up moving in with his dad, who was also a drunk but a mean one, and ended up being taken in by Krager and Shareen and how he’s indebted to them. Julie tells him “real family doesn’t make you owe them shit.” They discuss his tattoos and how he’s a tattoo artist that can fix a terrible Swastika tattoo on Julie’s leg very easily. They end up kissing.
Julie and the girls go back to Bryon’s shop, where he offers the girls transfer tattoos as he fixes Julie’s bad tat. Desiree has no patience for those and since she’s denied a real tattoo of Freya, she goes outside to smoke. Shareen spots her outside and invites her into her truck to smoke pot. She also gives her a Freya pendant and a card, explaining, “the first tattoo is on us.”
Bryon and Julie have fun with the younger girls (Iggy and Sierra) and later they have sex. Julie tells Bryon he’s “part of them.”
Halloween comes and they all go to a celebration the White Supremacists are having. Jenkins is there, filming them all, and tells Bryan once again he can help him if he wants.
At the party, April provokes Julie over Bryon, causing them all to leave early. While they’re sleeping at Bryon’s house, his cell rings and it’s Krager calling him “to do some work.” Julie wakes up and when she sees Krager’s van outside the window, she leaves with Bryon in pursuit.
On the way to Toledo, Krager tells Bryon Julie’s dad used to be with the KKK, but he “turned rat.” Bryon says he knows nothing about it. They arrive at a mosque that they’re going to set on fire. As Bryan searches the place, he finds some Muslim workers inside that he tells to flee. Gavin finds him right after. Bryon is nervous and has trouble lighting up the match the burn the place so Slayer does it for him.
Bryon gets home and tries to burn off his face tattoos. He then places a collect call to Jenkins and asks for his help, telling him about the mosque fire and inquiring about the health of the boy he injured.
Bryon shows up at Julie’s with Boss and his things and tells her he’s quit the movement. When she asks why, he replies, “Family doesn’t make you owe them shit.” Bryon and Julie get married. Bryon has issues finding a regular job, as he’s on the FBI most wanted list, so he gets odd jobs alongside “illegals,” who treat him well. He gets home from shoveling snow only to find Krager and the gang there. He convinces Julie and the girls to leave and Krager basically demands his return. Bryon refuses so Shareen asks to speak to him. She promises nothing will happen to him but “I’m scared about those girls.”
Bryon goes with them and they’re at a salvage yard. Slayer tells him the police have been asking questions, as there are three men who survived the fire. He demands Bryon finishes the job. When Bryon refuses, Slayer stabs the men, then fights with Bryon and shoots him. Slayer then demands Krager and Shareen step aside as it’s time for the new blood to take over. Gavin shoots Slayer dead. Krager orders the men burned and Bryon be taken into the van.
Julie gets a call from April telling her Bryon is in the hospital and to get there quickly before they kill him. At the hospital, Krager tries to extract info from Bryon about who he’s been talking to by restricting his oxygen flow, but leaves with Shareen without answers. Julie shows up and Bryon writes on her hand to call Jenkins.
Jenkins, Bryon, and Julie meet and discuss the process of leaving the movement. Julie is pregnant. Jenkins mentions he had to kidnap his own sons to leave the gang he was involved with. He also says there’s a chance a wealthy woman volunteering with the SPLC will pay for Byron to have his face tattoos removed. Jenkins gives them paperwork and tells them to be at a hotel in Nashville the following night, reminding them to talk to nobody.
As Julie and Bryon are getting ready to leave, they leave Boss out to relieve himself when their house is shot up. The girls huddle in the bathroom and everybody is unharmed. Bryon goes outside to evaluate the damage and he finds his house and car graffittied and Boss dead and hanging from a tree.
When they get to the hotel, Bryon is restless and paranoid. Desiree decides to go to the pool and from the window, Bryon spots a Freya tattoo on her arm. He makes her get out of the pool and questions her, asking if that’s how “they always know where we are,” shaking her. He pounds a man who tries to intervene to the ground, pushes Julie and makes her fall down too. She then tells him she actually got Desiree the tattoo and asks him to leave because he knew she’d never stay with someone abusing Desiree again. Bryon tries to apologize but it’s no use.
We see Bryon entering the FBI office with Jenkins and meeting agent Marks. We cut to the white supremacist compound that’s being raided by the FBI. Gavin tries to run but gets shot. Krager is arrested.
The day of the final tattoo removal Jenkins and Bryon meet outside. He is done. Bryon asks Jenkins whether he’d still be a piece of shit despite having his tattoos removed, and Jenkins says he only has to show people what he showed him.
Bryon knocks on a door. The door opens and Julie is there with a baby boy. Jenkins places Bryon’s picture on the photo array of former white supremacists.
At the end of the movie, we find out Jenkins is still heading the One People’s Project and remains good friends with Bryon to this day. Bryon underwent two years of surgeries to have all his face and hand tattoos removed. He’s currently getting a degree in criminal psychology and speaks around the country about tolerance and inclusion from his own experience.