on June 29, 2004
it makes its point and gives its message clearly enough. But Norton's performance actually outshines the movie itself. Worth seeing, but more for Norton
on March 23, 2010
This movie should be rated R. That said, I think the graphic violence and disturbing visual images were extremely effective in emotively extending this dead-weight issue.
American History X is a movie for all people, those who live in multicultural communities, and those who live in more segregated ones. It is a movie that will move you and cause you to deeply consider your own interactions with others of your race and not of your race.
If you enjoyed this movie, I would also recommend you see the film Crash, it is also regarding racism in America, less graphic, and with more characters involved from both Caucasian and African American perspectives.
Edward Norton was a fantastic actor for his role. He plays his part well, as you can also see in Fight Club.
I would not recommend this movie for anyone under 14 years old.
on May 6, 2004
Family relationships represent some of the most important relationships one creates in a lifetime. These connections shape personalities, thoughts, and actions. American History X depicts the life of one family involved with racism and how Derek's (Edward Norton) actions affect Danny's (Edward Furlong) life. Although American History X examines other issues such as racism and hate crimes, the movie clearly intends to show the importance of sibling relationships.
The prevalence of racism within the movie leads some critics to think that the theme somehow ties to racism. Richard Corliss, a movie reviewer for Time, draws the conclusion that, "you've got to be taught to hate. Derek's father makes racist remarks, so the liberal minded lad turns into a Neo-Nazi; then Derek sees his beliefs are wrong, so skinhead Danny does too" (100). Certainly both Derek and Danny had some influence from their father (William Russ) regarding their racist feelings. However, their mother (Beverly D'Angelo) remained neutral about her feelings toward races throughout the movie, and their sister (Jennifer Lien) clearly did not condone her brother's thoughts and actions. Also, Mr. Sweeney (Avery Brooks) endlessly tried to make the brothers change their ways. If one can learn to hate, why can one not also learn to accept?
The entire movie depicts how Derek's life affected Danny's. The fact that Derek greatly affected Danny's life is not so farfetched. According to Erica Goode and Betsy Wagner, authors of the article, "The Secret World of Siblings" claim that, "Sibling relationships shape how people feel about themselves, how they understand and feel about others, even how much they achieve" (44). Derek's only worry after leaving prison is how to get Danny away from this hate filled life. Although he never got Danny away, he did succeed in changing Danny's views towards racism. When the audience can determine that Derek helped to turn Danny racist and then can turn around and also say Derek helped Danny stop his racist ways, the movie really shows the strong bond between two brothers.
Another reason why the importance of sibling relationships represents the theme of American History X refers to the fact that we see most of the movie from Danny's standpoint. Edward Norton was quoted in the Detroit Free Press as saying, "The flashbacks are quite clearly viewed through his little brother's eyes, and he has idealized him" (Lawson). If Tony Kaye, director, had made this movie any different way, perhaps the fact that Derek helped to change Danny would not stand out as much. But because the flashbacks take place in Danny's memory, the audience can see how much Derek means to him.
One film reviewer, James Berardinelli, states, "American History X is in no way a comprehensive look at racism, hatred, or inner city violence. Instead it examines the various ways these elements tear at the fabric of a family" (Berardinelli). Berardinelli is right. If screen writer David McKenna wanted to make a movie on racism, why would he incorporate a family? The inclusion of a family plays an emotional angle. When viewers finish watching this movie, they have sympathy for the family that lost a son. They do not feel animosity towards Derek. Derek tried to do everything possible to remove Danny from the environment. If this movie meant to discuss racism, including the brother relationship and its impacts would be unnecessary.
Director Tony Kaye makes picking out the theme of the movie difficult for the audience. The overwhelming amount of hate and violence displayed within the movie begins to overshadow the importance of Danny and Derek's relationship. However, as reported on the Hollywood Jesus website, screenwriter David McKenna said the following when speaking about the inspiration behind the script, "While American History X was made with a no-holds-barred look at the very real underbelly of racism, this is not a film about skinheads or white power. This is a searing contemporary tragedy that grips one working-class family" (Bruce). This movie clearly intends to reveal the strength of a relationship between two brothers.
American History X takes a broad look at the issues surrounding a family stuck in the middle of racist thoughts. The final presentation of the movie forces the audience to take a deeper look into Danny and Derek's relationship. As long as Derek plays the hero type in the end, the audience forgets the racism aspect of the film. American History X simply uses the aspect of racism in order to explore the bigger issue, the importance of sibling relationships.
Berardinelli, James. Film review, 1998. 5 April 2004 <[...]>
Bruce, David. "Racism in America = Hating Others." 1998. Hollywood Jesus. 8 April 2004 [...]
Corliss, Richard. "Thug Chic." Time 2 Nov. 1998: 100.
Goode, Erica E., Wagner, Betsy. "The Secret World of Siblings." US News & World Report 10 Jan. 1994: 44-50.
Lawson, Terry. "Actor Stays Above the Fray Surrounding Skinhead Movie 'American History X.'" Detroit Free Press 12 Nov. 1998.
on April 4, 2004
Released in 1998 by New Line Cinema, American History X is a serious drama that reveals racism and hate prevalent throughout the world today. Set in Southern California, where a real life white supremacy "Skinhead" movement has flourished off and on for more than a decade, American History X portrays the story of Derek Vinyard (Edward Norton). Vinyard, second in command of the local hate group, serves three years in the penitentiary for the brutal killing of two black men. However, in prison he finds the truth concerning his racist cohorts and is befriended by a black inmate. Upon his release from prison, Vinyard finds himself a changed man that must save his younger brother Danny (Edward Furlong) from the movement he helped establish.
Norton's intense portrayal of both sides of the elder Vinyard, first as the angry, hate filled racist, and then as the loving, older brother determined to save his younger sibling from following the same path, earned him an Academy Award nomination. This five star drama is emotional and powerful, and is filled with a recognizable cast including Beverly D'Angelo, Fairuza Balk, Elliott Gould and Stacy Keach. Not for the weak and weary, American History X delivers the brutality associated with all racist groups, white and black, through to its climactic ending.
on February 12, 2004
A solid, worthwile movie on its own, "American History X" falls a bit short of being a masterpiece. Tony Kaye`s directional debut is a strong piece of filmmaking, a poignant urban drama about racism and the way youth deals with it.
The plot focuses the relationship of Derek Vinyard (an excellent Edward Norton) and his younger brother Danny (Edward Furlong, also well cast), who live in a Californian neighborhood. Derek and his friends have strong neo-nazi convictions, an ideology that they have chosen (or were just manipulated) while were dealing with the difficult task of growing up and its common alienating process.
After Derek spends some time in prison, his views of society change and he becomes a more tolerant, reasonable person and struggles to get his brother away from some racist influences. Kaye knows how to deliver a gritty and realistic atmosphere, with an intriguing visual style and some tense and suspenseful moments.
There are a couple of brutal, strong scenes here to enhance the violence and latent danger of extreme racist actions. However, the tone of the movie is uneven, switching between a dry, dark and credible approach or a more emotional and somewhat predictable perspective. This situation is better noticed in the not too surprising ending, that almost seems like an afterschool special.
Despite some stereotyped moments, "American History X" is still a consistent effort, one that is both captivating and meaningful, way above most of the mind-numbing "movies" out there.
Director Tony Kaye also deserves recognition for presenting two young racists that are not stupid, dumb, one-dimensional characters, just confused and reluctant individuals who still don`t know how to deal with their world.
A good, though-provoking movie.
on September 13, 2003
Things I liked:
B/W memories, technicolor present
Things I disliked:
The lacking defense of "liberalism." what was their defense? that nazis are wrong because they are violent, inconsistant, and will betray you? well, okay, that's a good reason for not joining a gang thereof, but the philosophy was not deconstructed AT ALL. The sister screams swear words at her brother, there's a winning defense. I want to know what "those books" were that changed his mind! Point out those "big holes" in the rhetoric! His arguments WERE convincing, that's because no one presented another side.
I also had a hard time figuring out the solutions this movie tried to present: stop the hatin', you whites, then blacks will stop the hatin'? What's the correct solution to the three blacks who beat the one white student? They weren't hating him for his whiteness, but they grouped together because they were black. How does one prevent that while pushing the message that you are special because of where your ancestors immigrated from?
I don't know, I thought the plot left a lot to be desired in realism and argument. The time-line also seemed really screwy. The sister's life, the one that rejects the racism her father has taught, is ignored. Why did she react differently? There were plenty of Nazi girls, it wasn't because she was a girl.
reviewers, note this:
He did not just shoot at people who were trying to break into his car, he shot them, then violently, purposefully murdered one [remember that curb? that is not a normal reaction to seeing someone break into your car]. It is NOT defending your family to shoot to kill at people running away.
The word 'skinhead' was not mentioned in that movie once, for a reason, they didn't want to throw in a whole scene about the arguments between Neo-Nazi Skinheads and SHARP [Skinheads Against Racial Prejudice] - basically, a neo-nazi can be a skinhead, but a skinhead isn't necessarily a neo-nazi. Having hair, I don't express affiliation into either group, but I dislike over-broad labeling.
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.
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.