An ambitious farmer Henry Whipple (Dennis Quaid) discusses with his son Dean (Zac Efron) about the art of sales. Dean is reluctant to be a ruthless as his father as they offer condolences and also unscrupulously attempt to purchase land during a family funeral. After returning home they roll out the red carpet for their son who has left the farm and mentions returning via a postcard but appears unlikely to return. As the story progresses we see that Henry Whipple is having an affair with Meredith Crown (Heather Graham) and his ongoing selfish decisions will continue to derail his future. He has created enemies within the genetically modified (GMO) seed-selling business including Jim Johnson (Clancy Brown) — his main competitor — and fails to help those that have helped him by buying cheaper illegal “cleaned“ seeds in his search for more money and land.
Dean desires to become a professional race car driver as a means to escape the generations of family farming and his father’s neglect (and undesirable sales techniques). During yet another local racing competition which he wins, Dean’s aggressive driving causes the crash of Jim Johnson’s son, Brad. They fight after the race, further fueling the feud between Henry and Jim. Racing scouts give Dean an opportunity to race at a professional level. He needs $15,000 to compete and his mother Irene (Kim Dickens) supplies it. This causes tension with Henry who is worried about his illegal dealings catching up with him.
Dean falters during his NASCAR opportunity by slowing when pressured by aggressive drivers during the race. He knows his opportunity to leave the farm is now gone and he spirals downwards, drinking and having sex with Meredith Crown damaging his relationship with his girlfriend Cadence Farrow (Maika Monroe). She appears to be a typical country girl but displays sales savvy to help Henry as well as being aware of the father and son attraction to pretty gals like Meredith. Dean purposely drives his car into a tree in a field which requires hospitalisation and a long recovery period. His father buys him another race car but he is not interested anymore. Henry is followed and confronted by Liberty investigators, the company he buys and sells his GMO seeds from. He has been “cleaning” seeds and reusing rather than buying from Liberty. If found guilty he will likely be bankrupt. Dean finds out about his father’s crime from his now ex-girlfriend who is moving away. Dean searches for the informant who contacted Liberty. He wrongly believes it is their major sales opponent, Jim Johnson. He ends up in another altercation with Jim Johnson’s son Brad on the side of the road and, after some fighting, he hits Brad with a hammer causing his death. Together with his father they bury Brad and the hammer in a deep well.
Henry finds out the real informant is Byron (Chelcie Ross) who missed out on the land he purchased at the start of the movie. Henry offers Byron a very good deal to use the land he bought for free for life as long as he stops Liberty investigating further. Dean’s mother is aware something is wrong with Dean and Henry and that they may have been involved in Brad’s disappearance. When she confronts Henry, he informs her that he alone was responsible. Dean is listening, realizing his father does truly love him and that he is also permanently indebted to him.
Life goes on with Dean becoming more like his father as they easily outsell their main opposition Jim Johnson, who is a shell of a man after his son’s disappearance. Henry almost confesses to Jim, but then falls back into his capitalist persona, letting him know they have retaken some of his clients. Irene receives one of several postcards in an ongoing series from her overseas traveling son, suggesting once again he would be home soon. The movie ends with Henry, Dean and Irene Whipple putting on a party at their home for clients and friends with strained smiles on their faces.