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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
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.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
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.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
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+++
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on January 3, 2004
Derek Vinyard (Edward Norton) loses his father Dennis (William Russ), who is a firefighter , that died putting out a firefighter in a crack house. Ever since then, Derek has been filled with hate, rage, violence, and racism. He joins up with Cameron Alexander ( Stacey Keach) who is the leader of the Nazi movement in Los Angeles. One night Derek catches three African American men breaking into his car, and he kills them. Derek is sent to prison for six years. While inside, Derek reluctantly becomes friends with an African American prisoner named Lamont (Guy Torry). Over time, Lamont causes Derek to realize that all his hate and anger never made his life any better. Now he is out and a changed man. Unfortunately , his brother Danny ( Edward Furlong) is headed in the exact same direction Derek was, and loves the life of a Nazi. Now it is up to Derek to save his brother and teach him the true meaning of redemption.
"American History X" is one of the best films that I have ever seen. The story is amazing, all the actors are outstanding, and the script provides for shocking scenes and great dialogue overall. The film takes an extremely controversial look at racism and shows just how damaging it can be. Watching the film unfold will leave you in awe. The parts dealing with Derek's past are shot in black and white to give them more of an ominous appeal. The present is shot in color to give the appearance of hope. Edward Norton gives the performance of his career as Derek Vinyard. He plays both sides of the character great. He is very convincing as a skinhead, and after prison shows that redemption is possible. Edward Furlong in my opinion did the best job in the movie. Furlong supplies extremely realistic emotion to let the audience know the inner conflict that his character is dealing with. The reason the character has such an impact on the film is because he is only trying to be like his brother. The rest of the cast was filled with excellent actors that include Stacey Keach, Avery Brooks, Ethan Suplee, Beverly De Angelo, and Fairuza Balk.
"American History X" is a highly controversial and disturbing film. It has shocking scenes and a realistic look at racism. But the story and characters are emotionally driven, and Derek's fight towards retribution is inspriring! It is an entertaining film, but an important one as well. A truly memorable classic.
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on January 1, 2004
It surprises me that when I talk to people about this movie that a large amount of them haven't heard of this movie. This movie is does an excellent job at showing the true reality of racism in American. While not all racists are quite as radical as the characters in this movie, it does show racism in all is aspects. Edward Norton does an amazing job at portraying his character who's a leader and a an idolized racist who holds against the minorities because his father was killed by blacks. Edward Furlong plays Norton's little brother who looks up to him and adapts to his ways and tries constantly to impress his brother. Once Norton's character goes to jail for brutally murdering three blacks his little sets out and indulges himself further into the realm in which Norton had surrounded himself in. After Norton comes back from jail, changed and eager to leave the life he once lived, his brother begins to question his older brother.
This all results in what turns out to be one of the strongest messages against racism that has been portayed in American cinema as of today. This is of course a movie for the more mature of audiences but I garuntee that whether you like it or not you will give your opinions some thought.
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on October 21, 2003
This movie gets everything right. I think a comparison to Ralph Ellison's classic novel Invisible Man is in order when evaluating this film. It makes a statement without offering any solutions. It's a sobering experience about injustice and the rift humans have with each other, especially, but not exclusively in terms of race. It's not so easy to dismiss the racism as being narrow-minded in this movie. The director does a good job of not falling into the trap that racism is wrong for no other reason than it just is. We see the full picture. We see why Derek (Edward Norton) feels the way he does. We see how his actions have affected his whole family. This movie is about people trying to make sense of their world. With American History X we are given a snapshot into a family. An American family. Good, bad, ugly, warts and all. The characters experience compassion, hate, anger, grief, love, forgiveness, and pain. There is no sugar-coating. This a heart-renching and heavy movie. The acting is completely believable and the direction is perfect. I think too many people write this movie off as a movie about racial issues. I think that is a mistake, and further more racial issues are only a part of what this movie has to offer.
However, this film is not for the faint of heart. I tried to get my mom to see it, but she just couldn't take. It's not an easy film to watch. So if that doesn't sound like your cup of tea I would not reccommend this movie to you. But I would also add that sometimes going through something difficult makes you a better person in the end.
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on August 4, 2003
I have NEVER been so impacted by a movie ever in my life. I seriously felt physically sick after seeing this...its just so real, so intense, so deep, so powerful, so haunting, I cant even explain the feeling it gives you. I was speechless once it was over; I mean the ending just throws your heart over the edge. The way the movie was captured is just so unique and creative...I think this is one of the best films ever made. I also think it is very under rated, and I really cant stand the people who hate it. If you are one of those people, you obviously missed what the movie is trying teach us about life and the human race. You also may have read too much into the movie- its ridiculous to over analyze and criticize things that have clear honest meanings. Anyways...the acting is incredible, of course Norton gave the performance of a live time, but I think Edward Furlong did JUST as well. I actually think in ways Furlong's performance was more haunting; he just has a very real, vulnerable quality to him. I think together they made the movie utterly astounding and mind-blowing.
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on July 12, 2003
AMERICAN HISTORY X is completely brilliant. It tells the tale of a skinhead, or ex-skinhead, Derek Vinyard, who has commited the brutal murder of two young Black men who were trying to steal his truck... a truck given to him as a gift from his late father... the man who influenced and introduced his racist ways of life...the man who was murdered while putting out a fire in a bad neighborhood and was shot by a Black drug dealer. Anyways, Derek is convicted of voluntary manslaughter. He spends three years in prison. While in prison, his racist views of life are altered thanks to a friend that he develops in prison who also happens to be a minority. After he is released he is concentrating on changing his life. While the racist views of he and his father did not spread to his entire family, being that his younger sister, Davina, his mother, Doris, and his child sister, Alley are not racist, his views did spread to his little brother, Danny, who witnessed his Derek, a hero and big influence in his life murder a minority, and saw that murder as justification and proof that Derek's racist views were right. Derek is the person responsible for dragging his little brother into a life of gangs, violence and racism, as he once saw that as the right life for Danny. It is now Derek's duty and responsibility to his family to rescue Danny from a violent fate. As the film unfolds, you witness the film through Danny's eyes, as he narrates his tragic story. The movie is entertaining never lets go, as its daring cinematic vision from director, Tony Kaye and writer, David McKenna. You find yourself on the edge of your seat as the story is filled with blistering dialogue and scenes that will haunt the audience. You feel as if you, yourself are apart of the story. As the film unravels down to its groundbreaking conclusion, you find yourself learning a lesson, that can't easily be expressed by words, but only by viewing the film. The great storyline and directing along with daring and mesmerizing photography, combined with the amazing acting talents of such actors as Edward Norton, Edward Furlong, Faruiza Balk, Jennifer Lien, Beverly D' Angelo, Ethan Suplee, and many more, makes for a great film that many will enjoy. I am not saying that this film is for all audiences. Beware of the excessive amounts of profanity, violence and sexuality that add to the films gripping style. There was supposedly controversy behind the scenes, and I heard somewhere that Edward Norton is responsible for some of the movie's mesmerizing scenes, but that is all too complicated to dive into, and there is no way of knowing if that's true or not. The bottom line is that this movie is really good. It should've been bigger in theatres than it was, but I can understand that much of the film may not have been well-recieved by certain audiences due to certain scenes in the film and the extremity of the contents, but I do think that it does deserve more credit than it recieved.It should've gotten more publicity. Maybe, they should make a collector's edition DVD with better special features. That would be cool.
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on June 9, 2003
I was sitting around watching the Independent Film Channel when all of a sudden this movie came on. It looked good, so I decided to watch it. Also, I heard of it before. As I got into the movie, I began to enjoy, unlike a lot of the movies on this channel.
The movies about a young teenager who really wants to be a skinhead like his older brother Derek Vinyard, who is famous for starting up a group of skinheads in Venus Beach, California. The trouble start up when Derek goes off to jail for killing two young African Americans who were breaking into his car on night.
The movie starts off with Danny, the young skinhead brother, getting in trouble with the principle of his school, who happens to be African American, for writing a book report on Mein Kumph, Adolf Hitler's autobiography. The teacher now sends Danny into a class which he will teach named American History X. To start off the class, Danny has to write a new report on his brother Derek. Even though Danny hates the idea, he still agrees to write the paper.
Around this time, Derek is released from jail. However, his look has changed. He no longer pocesses his rebellious bald scalp, but a full head of hair. He is met early by the still bald-headed Danny, who tells him about the report he has to do. Shocking to the boy, Derek tells him to do the report, and says it wasn't a good idea for him to write on Hitler. Derek also discovers that Danny has joined the group that he had been a part of, and taken the same mentor that Derek took when he was a skin.
Intense, disturbing, and touching at times, American History X gives the story of a family who has been torn down by racism. With excellant performances from Edward Nortan and Edward Furlong, this movie packs a message about the neo-Nazi skinheads of America. This is definatly a movie anyone on the planet shoulld see. It pulls in family, anti-racism, and changes that will shock you until the end.
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on January 20, 2003
Very few movies have ever left me completely speechless....This, however, was one of them. It's very easy sometimes to forget how harsh and troubled life in America really can be. Too many of us are lost in the repetitive, mindless, false-sense-of-security world of American suburbia. We see the violent images on TV, but never truly believe that hate and racial warfare could possibly still be rampant in America. This movie will snap you back to reality. Edward Norton was nominated for an Academy Award for his portrayal of young white-supremicist Derek Vinyard. Equally excellent is Edward Furlong, who portrays Derek's younger brother. The interplay between the actors is impressive and moving, and this brotherly connection is what ultimately makes this movie work as well as it does.
The American media today is saturated with (mostly international, anti-american) images and rhetoric about fundamentalism, extremism, intolerance, and hate. Too few of these images, however, have an immediate and personal impact on a sheltered American audience. This film provides a realistic portrayal of what extremism and bigotry can do when set loose on the streets of America.
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