on March 29, 2007
After being introduced to Edward Norton in Primal Fear, I was once again blown away by his performance in American History X. Norton is supported by cast featuring such actors as Stacey Keach (Mike Hammer and Prison Break), Edward Furlong (John Conner, Terminator), Beverly D'Angelo (Ellen Griswald, European Vacation, et al) Elliot Gould (M*A*S*H*, The Shining) and Avery Brooks (Star Trek Deep Space Nine).
I would have to say that if you can make it through the first fifteen minutes of the film's graphic violence and hatred that the rest of the movie is a must see.
We are introduced to Derek, through his little brother's retelling of the violent episode that sent Derek to prison and the events thereafter. Danny Vineyard (Edward Furlong) idolizes his older brother and yearns to be just like him. He enjoys the knowledge that everyone identifies him as the brother of the most respected member of their white supremacy group, headed by Cameron. Stacey Keach is perfect in this role. You can almost see the slime oozing off him.
Conflict arises when a black high school teacher, whom Derek had admired before his initiation into racism, recognizes the potential that Danny possesses, but sees him following in his older brother's footsteps. He seeks Derek out in prison and asks his help in setting Danny on the right path.
The prison scenes alternate between horrifying and down right hilarious as Derek comes to the realization that he may have been wrong in his biases of people. Derek sets out to save his brother from perpetuating the life that he has led.
This movie runs the full gamete of emotions. In the space of an hour and a half, I laughed and I cried. I was disgusted, mortified, amused, and enlightened. The truly disturbing thing was that Norton is so convincing and likeable in the role that you can almost buy into his disgusting racist rhetoric. I think that is why this is one of my favorite movies. It makes everyone human, politically, ethically or morally right or wrong. Regardless of our views we are all just people, and we love our families unconditionally, no matter how dysfunctional.
I would recommend this film to anyone who has a strong sense of empathy, community, or social justice. Keep in mind though; you have to have a strong stomach too.
on January 11, 2004
In a word, this film is fabulous.
It is an emotionally engaging, heartrending experience, essentially unlike anything I have ever seen before.
It is a shame that this movie remains relatively unknown--it is certainly comparable to some of the greatest "classic" films that people tout much more openly: the stark, unflinching way in which it addresses some of the darkest elements not only of our society, but of the individual, is unforgettable.
This is THE film for anyone who is looking for a thought-provoking, stirring, and unbelievably raw work.
Norton (who, incidentally, ended up contributing a great deal in the post-production process after the director effectively abandoned the project) delivers a fabulous and haunting performance.
NOTE: This film is not for everyone. Approach with an open mind, or stay away.
on January 4, 2012
Probably one of the best movies I've watched in awhile ---- confronting, violent & full of emotion ( a must watch ) be ready for the big ending -- AAA+++
on January 21, 2002
I have to admit that given the story I really didn't want to see this movie. Recommended it by a friend I eventually sat down to watch it. When I did I was completely mesmerised. It takes an incredibly difficult premise and manages to make it credible, evocative and tragic. It's basically about a member of a white supremacy group, Edward Norton, who goes to prison for three years after killing three car theifs in a race attack. Told through the eyes of his younger brother, played by Edward Furlong, as he begins to follow in the footsteps of his brother. The movie takes a look at Norton's time in prison, his return and his effect on those around him.
'American History X' certainly doesn't shy away from some of its key moments and is highly graphic, so be warned. Never before have I watched such horrible sights of brutality and been moved to such an extent, some scenes are just so horrible that you will find yourself crying out. This makes it even more hard-hitting, and its message is a lot more complicated than 'racism is bad'. It talks about the effect of society on a disillusioned youth population, racial friction and the family unit.
Thanks to Edward Norton's brave, compelling performance, the audience is really dragged into his emotional turmoil. His performance is unflinching, refusing to cop out and go for the sympathetic vote. He's backed up by strong performances from Edward Furlong (the kid from 'Terminator 2') and Fairuza Balk (a much underrated actress whose formidable acting ability is yet again proved here) as his girlfriend.
This is a movie that has several levels to it. It's touching, horrific and serves up some troubling issues about the society that we live in. 'American History X' is a movie that everyone should see, and is one of only two movies (the other being 'Heavenly Creatures') that affected me to great depth.
on December 17, 2001
American History X is not your ordinary (...) Hollywood movie. It doesn't have a meaningless action plot line or a phony love story. It doesn't have a happy ending there aren't any heroes or heroine. What it does have is racism, ignorance, prejudice and pure hatred. It shows a negative part of our society as we don't want to see it, but as it truly is. It's an original movie that goes were no other has dared. American History X shows things that are hard to look at and hard to accept.
This isn't a movie that I should have to recommend because everybody should see it. Asking someone what they think of this film is like asking what they think of stone, this movie is about the truth. It's not about how good the acting is or if the storyline makes sense it's the message that everyone comes away with. Plus all that criteria for a good movie are in this film anyway.
The film starts of with Derek brutally killing two gang members for trying to steal his car. He goes to prison for only three years even though his actions that were shown could of landed him in prison for his life. Danny, Derek's younger brother says that if he would of testified Derek would get life in prison. Danny not testifying portrays Danny's strong love for his brother. It will also explain Danny becoming more and more like his brother that is at time in jail.
The film goes onto to explain Derek's reasoning for his racist views. This is a strong point in the movie; the viewer for the first time maybe in the first time in his life try's to understand, a racist and a murderer. It becomes clear that Derek's future views had a lot to do with his father. At the dinner table one day, Derek talks about how his teacher is making him read this book, which has a premise of white prejudice towards blacks. Derek's father tells him not to absorb everything that his teacher tells him. It is a warning that to me infers Derek's reaction to his father's death. When Derek's father is killed in a fire Derek is shown on TV being interviewed. Derek lets loose saying indirectly that minorities caused his father's death and that they plague America. Derek then is shown leading a gang of enraged teens to attack a supermarket. Derek's views have materialized and he plans to do something.
The film continues with Derek in jail, from this point on the film jumps backwards and forwards a lot. Derek in jail refuses to see anyone from his family because he is ashamed and he thinks it will make it harder for him in jail by always thinking about them. Derek has found his group; he knew that if he didn't find people with the same views as himself he would probably get killed. When he notices that one of the people in his group is dealing with a minority he is disgusted by it and wants answers, but the others in the group don't see it so seriously. That's when Derek disses his group and they rape him in the bathroom for it.
This is a turning point in the story, when his old teacher comes to visit him the same teacher the Danny now is thought by. The teacher makes an interesting comment that to Derek "Has anything in your life made your life any better?" From this point on Derek starts to think about what has happened to him and what he has done in his life. This will become more evident as the story goes on and Derek's views are made clearer. The only people he has ever trusted betray Derek. Whatever these people actually were; nazi's, white supermist or skinheads, he was without their protection now and he would be alone in the worst place to be alone in. Derek feared for his life, thinking that the black inmates would come for him one of these days. His co-worker in jail is black. After the incident he becomes his friend and you see Derek transforming thorugh this realization. When Derek does get out of jail he thanks his friend for keeping him alive.
When Derek comes out jail the first thing he wants to do is to confront his old friend that organized the hate group. When he does, he knocks him out. Derek has made a realization that this whole hate is not good for anything and this man who he thought was his friend is a two-face liar letting two kids go to jail for his crimes. When Danny finds out of what Derek has to explain his actions to his brother and he tells him everything that he encountered while in jail.
There are two more powerful scenes that make the ending to the film. When Derek and Danny get back home they tear down all the nazi pictures and flags and they throw it all out. The next scene comes up when Danny gets to school. He is shot six times in the bathroom by another teen that he had a confrontation with before. The confrontation was nothing big and it exactly points out what kind of senseless violence and pure hatred still goes on in America.
The film has nice ending with Danny reading his paper about his brother that he was asked to write by the same teacher that visited Derek while in jail. Another style effect that I found fitting was black and white color that was used whenever a look back to the past was made. And anything that happened in the present was in color.
This movie is one of the best movies for its originality with dealing with racism, ignorance and prejudice. This film at the least has made people think about the truth of our society. As we live together in the 21st century can we get along, can we get rid of prejudice and hatred as it is shown in this movie. Is racism something that has existed since the beginning of man kind and if so could it be stopped. What kind of a program could we do on such wide scale, then I guess someone did try to do that, the director of American History X. I know at the least it has made people think. People can easily identify with this film it seems so real and it's so powerful, that you think you've just witnessed a lot if it right in front of you and not on a screen. American History X provided the viewer with a hard-hitting, no holds barred drama and a look at, how in this story prejudice began and where it lead.
on November 4, 2001
(...) Graphic imagery and excerpts (...), captivating cinematography, universal plot, and actors that are frightfully and alarmingly convincing, make American History X a difficult movie to see, but an impossible one to quit watching.
Screenplay writer David McKenna doesn’t beat around the bush; within the first twenty minutes, the whole plot is laid out. The location: Venice Beach, California, a neighborhood that was once white suburbia, but is now plagued with gangs. The influential character: Derek Vinyard (Edward Norton), a misguided youth seeking revenge for his father’s death. Derek seeks solace in the D.O.C. (Disciples of Christ), an organization of angry, white extremist skinheads. His anger finally peaks when he brutally kills two black men who were breaking into his car. Derek spends three years in jail, soul-searching, and finds that his rage failed to impact his life. He comes back a changed man, ready to part with his animosity and begin anew. The conflict: Danny Vinyard (Edward Furlong), Derek’s younger brother, idolizes Derek’s old days and racist ways, and is already following in his footsteps. Derek, freed of his hatred, sees it as his duty to rescue his sibling, before he has to learn the hard way. The resolution: a bitter-sweet success tinged with irony.
The story, from the aggressive start to the shocking, emotional ending, is powerful, universal, and timeless. But the movie is propelled to a whole other level with the outstanding performance of Edward Norton. Norton is able to evoke emotion without words, give meaning without saying a thing. For example, let’s examine the scene of Derek’s brutal crime. After getting all he can out of his automatic, Derek atrociously finishes off a survivor by kicking his skull into the curb. The following few minutes are pure film, with the exception of police commands in the background. Norton exemplifies the power, the glory Derek gains from his action, despite the actual horror, and the hopelessness of his crime. Derek’s bulging muscles, imposing swastika tattoo over his heart, demonic glare, and self-satisfied smile, overpower the fact that he is handcuffed and down on his knees. Norton, after embodying all that is evil, then, seemingly effortlessly, does a complete 180°, and becomes the good guy. Norton’s portrayal is so powerful because he appears to literally become Derek, never once stepping out of character.
Along with Norton’s superb performance, the movie has multiple other noteworthy actors. Edward Furlong, although not nearly as strong an actor as Norton, is strong in the end, during Danny’s transformation. His voice cracks with emotion and his eyes brim with tears, as he effectively portrays Danny’s newly discovered innocense.
Of the smaller roles, Guy Torry, who plays Derek’s black friend in jail, and has much to do with his new mindset, gives a notable performance. Torry provides comedy, making the difficult plot a little easier to swallow.
But besides the outstanding acting and superb plot, there is also spectacular cinematography, which can be attributed to director and cinematographer Tony Kaye. Kaye uses black and white for flashback scenes and color for present-day scenes. Besides creating very aesthetically pleasing visuals through the constant switching of colors, the black and white and color scenes add a very distinct mood to the movie. The black and white, which depicts a very dark, gray past, stands for hopelessness. The color, thus, is used to create contrast, to stand for hope. The movie begins and ends with the same scene of the beach, the beginning in black and white, and the end in color. The color conveys a sense of optimism, despite the movie’s ironic twist of an ending.
The bleak theme, lined with glimmers of hope and optimism, parallels our world. American History X is a timeless movie, one that seemed all too appropriate when it first came out, not long after the death of Mathew Shepard, and one, that sadly, seems all too appropriate now, amidst the hatred and the war. But through all the horrid, gruesome scenery, the underlying message is hopeful: hate is taught, and it can be untaught. I will steal the ending lines of the movie, for as Danny says, someone has already said it best. "We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, we must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory will swell when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature." (Abraham Lincoln).
Hearing the centuries-old words of Abraham Lincoln through the emotional voice of a changed man, all set to the scene of a colorful sunrise…there isn’t much else left to say.
on October 17, 2001
This movie was one of the most moving films that I have ever seen! It was a hard hitting, no holds barred drama about a former skinhead trying to turn his life around after three years spent in prison for murder. I believe that this is a movie that most people should see because of it's extremely powerful portrayal of racism and the consequences of racism. Edward Norton, Edward Furlong, and the rest of the cast give wonderful performances. This film should have been nominated for more Oscars!
This is a great film, but one thing is for sure: it is not for the everyone. Please take strong caution before you see this movie. The profanity level is extreme, but it is typical of the environment the characters live in. I can't see how you could accuratly portray this without the excessive profanity. Although I can't stand tons of profanity, I tolerated it in this movie because of the strong subject matter that it dealt with. There was also a rape scene which was graphic and very disturbing, and one strong sexual scene at the beggining. There was graphic violence and lots of blood, but it is also accurate to the subject of the film.
This movie portrays the redemption of a man who thought he had screwed his life up forever. It is absolutly beautiful to see him try to change his life, and the lives of others, particularly his brother. People need to see this film. I loved it, and will add it to my collection of films.
on September 4, 2001
The Genre of a movie is often extracted by certain characteristics that we associate with specific aspects in that movie. Why are we drawn to view certain genres of movies? We may be looking for a specific genre of movie because of something that is going on in our own lives at any given time. Drama is one of the most widely viewed and created genres in the film business. This could be because drama centers around conflict of characters and our lives are consistently revolving around conflict of sometime. If it is not directly in our lives it plays a part in someoneï¿½s life who is close to us. Though movies are characterized as a drama, western, horror film, or one of many others, this does not mean that the film will solely roll along the tracks set forth by that genre. American History X is one of few movies that may be classified as a drama, but it will also give you a whole new perspective on how you view what is going on around you, and may even lead you to question areas of your life.
American History X does show many things that you would expect to see in a drama film. Camera shots that start us viewing the normal state of a character and then changing pace as he is plummeting in a downward spiral through life. We see this in Derek Vinyardï¿½s (Edward Norton) case as we see him in his house, (though already we can tell something is wrong by the way he is living) and shortly after we see him murder someone. Drama, as defined by Webster, is: ï¿½A prose or verse composition presenting in dialogue and action a story involving conflict or contrast of characters, intended to be performed on the stage.ï¿½ Conflict plays a significant role in American History X. We see conflict between Derek Vinyard and his brother Danny (Edward Furlong), we see conflict between the Vinyard boys and their mother, we see conflict between just about every character that has a prominent role in this film. Most of all, we have conflict between black and white, which American History X is centered around. We live through the drama of Derek Vinyardï¿½s life and see his perspective and why he views things the way he does. We are so immersed in the drama that we begin to ask ourselves questions about how we are living. We watch Vinyard as he turns himself around and how he tries to undo what he has done in his life. We feel the struggles of his dramatic path through life, and we begin to ask ourselves the same questions he faces. The conflict surrounding Derek is so strong that it is impossible to ignore. It is very easy to see how this movie is classified by a drama, but American History X is definitely not just another drama. American History X is film so dramatic, so controversial, with so much conflict, that it will leave you sitting in silence while the credits roll. American History X will have you questioning yourself and your life, all because of a movie some people say is probably ï¿½just another drama.ï¿½
written for: CST 4395
on July 7, 2001
This movie starts of through the eyes of Danny Vinyard, a young boy who's life revolved around his older brother, Derek Vinyard, and racism. Danny looked up to his older brother in ways that most young kids do to an older sibling, as if they are god. It took me three years to finally sit down and watch this movie, not because I didn't want to, but because I never thought about it til tonight when me and my wife went to Blockbuster. I just picked it up, and was saying that we should rent it because I have heard nothing but good reviews about it. Well, the reviews didn't lie.
This movie shows how life and prejudice are all a big problem in todays society. How one race can't get along with the other because of somethings that happened in the past many years ago. After the brutal slaughtering of two rival gang members of a different color for trying to steal a truck Derek's father had bought for him, Derek gets sent to prison for three years. In the time he was in prison, Derek's younger brother Danny followed in his older brothers footsteps and got active in a white supremesis gang his brother had lead. When Derek gets out of prison and goes to quit the gang, Danny becomes upset because he never had thought his brother would ever do that. After sitting down and listening to the horror story his older brother had in prison, Danny decides being racist is not the way to go. And the only reason Danny was in the gang in the first place was to impress his older brother.
In my opinion, this was one of the greatest movies of all time, it shows us what is going on, and how the whole world will never get along because of race, religion, or just down out right different. Life isn't fair to everyone, and just because you were born different, doesn't make you different. We're all equal. Rent this movie, buy this movie, watch it over and over again. It will be one that you will remember for the rest of your lives.
on May 13, 2001
I rarely buy movies. But I did buy American History X.
This is the incredibly powerful story of two brothers who fall into the trap of racism and hate. It is also the story of these brothers trying to free themselves from racism and hate. After spending some time in prison for murdering two blacks who try and steal his car (a dispute starting with a basketball game), former neo-nazi Derek Vinyard (Edward Norton) leaves his incarceration a changed man. To his dismay, however, he find that his younger brother is walking the same path he once did. The movie uses black-and-white scenes from the past in conjunction with color scenes in the current situation to establish Derek's sordid history as a vicious racist and show his path to change.
The younger brother, Danny (Edward Furlong), idolizes Derek. In fact, the local coterie of skinheads all do. Derek has a power to feed the hate of his retinue with fiery rhetoric that targets ethnic groups indiscriminately with intense indignation. The movie is truly scary when you see the skinheads bonding, brought together by an irrational hate and Derek's ability to gratify it with his fierce oratories.
Edward Norton was robbed when the Academy denied him the Oscar for Best Actor (he was nominated, though). His performance is compelling and real...frighteningly so. He effectively straddles the line between a smart kid with dumb ideas and the true racist seething with hate. I sincerely think he is one of Hollywood's most promising actors. Edward Furlong is also powerful, which is shocking for an actor of his age. Danny shares Derek's hate, but not the ability to convey it "rationally." The script is stunning, likewise the directing and editing.
The movie is violent and brutal, almost disturbingly so, but it is critical to underscore the power of the story. This is not tasteless killing. And it does not glorify racism...it exposes the consequences of racism and its absurdity. It shows how screwed-up people can rise above the pettiness of hate. One of the most powerful scenes in the movie is when Derek and Danny pull down all the Nazi crap on his bedroom wall.
This movie is intense, as well. I must have lost 20 pounds watching it, because my heart was pounding insanely hard. The ending is horrifyingly sad...I have to wonder if I've ever been more moved by a movie.
Be warned: It's brutal, gritty, and emotionally heavy. But at the same time it's a remarkably powerful story with first-rate acting and a powerful message. Don't pass this one up.