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4.0 out of 5 stars
Disturbing . . . Thought-provoking, May 23 2004
The most disturbing thing about this film is that the hate and racism are more believable than the sudden ascent from them. Edward Norton's eloquent, passionate portrayal of a skinhead seemed more real than his quieter, more introspective portrayal of an ex-skinhead. He had been driven into the Neo-Nazi underworld by a lack of identity and an undirected rage at society; it gave him an identity, and an outlet for his anger. In prison, however, his character is suddenly transformed from an angry, passionate skinhead into a quiet, sensitive guy. The racism goes away, but the root causes of it are never resolved, and it leaves the rest of the movie with an unnatural, saccharine taste to it. The causes, motivations, and defenses for the characters' white supremacy are there, but there seems to be no reason for the sudden change. It is arguably because Edward Norton's performance as a skinhead was so strong, but his performance afterward seemed empty. Tony Kaye must take much of the blame in this for not providing any motivation for the transformation.
I believed Edward Furlong: he acted consistently throughout as a hero-worshipping younger brother would. His behaviour hinged so much on Norton's, however, that Norton's unbeleivable character turnaround pulled Furlong's solidly grounded and well played character from the believability and realism the acting merited.
All in all, a brilliant, disturbing, thought-provoking film; the brilliant performances in the first half of the movie overshadow the salvation in the second half, so you are left more with a chilling view of Neo-Nazism than with an inspiring story of their salvation from hateful views.