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Showing 1-7 of 7 reviews(1 star). Show all reviews
on January 4, 2001
Daniel Vinyard (Edward Furlong) writes an essay on Mein Kampf but the angered school principal (who is black) makes him rewrite the essay as a study of how his older brother Derek ended up in jail. The essay is called American History X, and provides the narrative frame for the film. In a pragmatic touch, the past is rendered in black and white, the present in color. Thus the narrative is a frame, which allows an intellectual commentary to be imposed upon the dramatic incidents of the story. Unfortunately, manipulation is everywhere in American History X, and I don't think Tony Kaye's always conscious of it. He's infatuated with the visceral power of film, and his obsessive imagery sometimes defeats thematic concerns. Especially in early scenes, when the camera is on Norton, Kaye makes like he's shooting a Calvin Klein ad. Kaye's manipulation can be very subtle: the curbing scene is a good example of the director at his most deviously polemic. Yes, the scene is dramatically unnecessary - but it's disturbingly effective. But why is this sequence viewed as justified, rather than gratuitous? Perhaps it's partly because many audience members feel they deserve to be nauseated. Perhaps the White liberal, middle-class audience responds to Kaye's provocation with the one emotion it has learned to express unreservedly: guilt. Guilt-drumming is a constant in mainstream 'message' films: like medicine, we take the guilt-mongering, not because we especially want to, but because it's "good for us". Norton plays his character brilliantly, throughout all the stages we get to witness. He is interesting as a frustrated young kid, hypnotic as a passionate fascist and dramatic as the conscientious adult. Unconvincing, however, are many of the scenes set after Derek's release from prison, where he seems to be able to tie up the loose ends in the space of one day. Most ridiculous is the idea that Danny, who we're constantly being told has followed in Derek's footsteps as a cogent, articulate orator for militant racism, can be won round into flower-power pacifism after a quiet little chat with big bettered bro. Another problem is when Derek is actually in prison, he works with a funny black guy in the laundry room and they become best buds and Derek's tune changes completely. It's this conversion that plays so suspiciously. One second Derek's a white supremacist and the next second he's the equality angel. This allows a cloud of ghastly hollowness and confusion to hang over everything that follows.
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on June 12, 1999
Oh, how this film is trash. Let me count the ways. First, the acting is bad. Edward Norton plays the 2 roles fine -- The role before prison and the role after prison -- but the rest of the cast is horrible with meaningless uninteresting performances by all particularly Edward Furlong, Stacey Keach and Elliot Gould. Second, the direction (when not dealing with glossy, MTV style ultra-violence) could not be worse. The whole film has this "what-does-this-thing-do" look to it. Where visuals and angles are used only because they can. Third, the ham-handed usage of black and white versus color. The script is horrible. The dialogue is bad. The story structure is bad. The character development is worse then the character development in "Showgirls." By time the meaningless climax you will be thinking to yourself, "Who cares." It is stupid, with only a couple scenes of distinct violence to redeem itself. At all costs, spare yourself the epic waste of time that is "American History X."
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on October 20, 2003
The person who said they didn't use the word skinhead in the movie is wrong. When the police are discussing Norton's character in the conference room they blantanly call his gang the most dangerous skinhead gang. I found this very insulting considering that I am a skinhead and that the "skinheads" potrayed in the movie were what skinheads call boneheads. The real skinhead culture has it's roots in Jamaican music and British working class ethics. It started in the late 60's when the Jamaican immigrants to Britian brought with them their music and what was know as the "rudeboy" style. Young working class mods that were fed up with the Psychodelic scene caught on to the rudeboy scene and came up with their own version of the tough jamaicans....the first skinheads. They were not racist in any way and were always socializing with the Jamaican and other island immigrant youths. The fact that the media and major motion pictures only give attention to the Neo-Nazi copycat skinheads not only offends me, but also socially marks me....and if I'm in the wrong place could possibly be a danger to my safety. So, in conclusion, even though I really like Edward Norton as an actor, this movie is horrible and should have never of been made without recognition to the original skinhead movement.
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on July 26, 2003
Wow. The number of glowing reviews for this repellent little work of art shows what a fine job our public schools are doing at turning people into mind-numbed, politically correct morons. American History X juxtaposes the perfectly rational dialogue by the film's main "racist" (Norton's character) with appalling acts of violence, in an attempt to link reasonable and legitimate conservative opinions with outright racism. (I can just imagine what the geniuses who admire this film will say after reading this review... "Reasonable???") The filmmaker is trying to say that holding opinions expressed by certain characters such as opposition to affirmative action/ welfare is just a few steps away from stomping on someone's head. That is the totalitarian tendency of political correctness. American History X wallows in the most pretentious political correctness ever put on film.
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on January 11, 2004
if we will ever have a movie exemplifying the racist attitudes of the people of Israel?
The problem with this movie is it portrays ethnocentricism as a white pathology, which is completely contrary to what we find in this world. How many people like Norton's character really exist in our modern world? Very few. If we are going to make a movie about ethnocentric behavior, the portrayal of an Israeli soldier would be much more relavent and believable.
Ultimately, this movie provides no insight to real life racist behavior. It simply promotes the hollywood myth that egalitarianism is the normal human tendency, and only white people prefer their own race or tribe over others. Meanwhile, the whole world is errupting in ethnic wars and indoctrinated Americans don't have a clue as to why.
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on May 9, 2004
Everyone kept telling me to see this movie. They said it would be like nothing I have ever encountered before.
Well, I saw it. Was I moved? Hardly. Instead I found myself to be incredibly bored and even slightly annoyed.
The movie attempts to lecture white kids kids about racism. It does a terrible job. I am white, and grew up around white racist kids, and let me tell you....they were horrible animals. And you couldn't change them. They were sadistic cowards. The makers of this movie are so naive. They actually think they can change the views of racist kids by exposing them to one of the sappiest, overly sentimental movies of the past decade?
They really believe that ridiculously melodramatic scenes will get through to these idiots?
We all know that racism exists and how bad it is. And the stereotypes in this movie are so politically correct, that they very well may further racism rather than stop it.
This movie also seemed to alienate white kids. It makes it as though you can only be racist if you are white, and that the social problems of other minority communities excuse their prejudices and racist attitudes towards white people.
At least thats the feeling I got from the film. I could be wrong. But it feels strangely familiar.
American History X drags on and on. The story is poor. The dialogue is poor. I actually pity the actors. Its not really their fault. I mean, they were given such terrible lines, they really had nothing to work with.
One of the biggest failures of the movie was the transition of Norton's character from a violent racist to an open minded, loving, saint. The change was brought about so poorly in the movie that it was embarrasing to watch because it looked so artificial.
I applaud movies that attack the evils of racism, but this one is an utter failure. It relies far to much on shock value rather than plot and character development. There is nothing here. Its as though high school students wrote the script.
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on December 5, 2004
another movie to villianize white people? This movie, like so many other pieces of liberal propaganda, only serve to reinforce the notion that only whites can be racist, that whites are wholly responsible for the societal problems of the other races, and that whites everywhere are conspiring to subjugate minorities. As for me I am getting a little sick and tired of it. I wonder if we will ever see a balanced and honest view of racism and ethnocentrism out of Hollywood. Somehow I doubt it.
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