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American History X (1998)

DVD Cover (New Line Studios)
Genres:
Crime Drama, Drama, Message Movie, Urban Drama
Director:
Tony Kaye Tony Kaye
Starring:
Edward Norton Edward Norton
Edward Furlong Edward Furlong
Beverly D'Angelo Beverly D'Angelo
Jennifer Lien Jennifer Lien
Ethan Suplee Ethan Suplee

8.5 / 10 - 47 votes

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Review by Chad
Added: November 10, 2004
Derek Vinyard (Edward Norton) lives at home with his mother Doris (Beverly D'Angelo), sister Davina (Jennifer Lien) and his younger brother Danny (Edward Furlong) after his father (William Russ) was murdered by a black man. After losing his father during his teen years, Derek has become a skinhead with the rationale that blacks, Mexicans, and any other immigrants should not be allowed into his country. With the help of fellow white supremacist Cameron Alexander (Stacy Keach), Derek organizes a rather large group of like-minded individuals to "clean up" Venice Beach, where they currently reside. However, when a group of black guys attempt to steal Derek's car, he pulls out a gun and kills two of them, which leads to him having to serve three years in jail. While in jail, Derek meets up with a group of skinheads and starts hanging around them for protection... however, he slowly becomes friends with his black co-worker Lamont (Guy Torry) and starts to realize the error of his racist ways. After getting out of jail, he finds that his brother Danny has gotten involved in the whole white power thing, and has been being used by Cameron to orchestrate all sorts of skinhead doings. With the help of his former and Danny's current teacher Bob Sweeney (Avery Brooks), Derek attempts to change Danny's outlook on life. This doesn't sit too well with Derek's girlfriend Stacey (Fairuza Balk), nor with his former best friend Seth (Ethan Suplee), and especially not with Cameron and the other skinheads... all sorts of trouble ensues.

With all the praise this movie has received and the seemingly-dull storyline, I avoided this movie for quite some time. I figured that it was more overrated crap from Hollywood, but that was a big mistake on my part as this was quite the excellent movie. The storyline moves a bit too slow for my tastes in some spots (the beginning, mostly), but after moving through the opening thirty minutes or so, things keep a nice pace and never gets too slow or dull. I was also surprised at the lack of "white supremacists are bad!!" messages, which I was expected to be fed in heavy doses. While the skinheads certainly aren't portrayed in a glamorous light, the movie doesn't strive to force the politically correct messages down the viewers throat near as much as one would expect. The movie gives many valid points for hating blacks and immigrants, and while I personally don't agree with said reasons, it's a far cry from the typical half-retarded, redneck KKK member that we've come to expect in our media.

Edward Norton (Derek) does a fantastic job with his performance. During his skinhead phase, he comes off as completely believable in his race-hating ways, but he then makes the transition to a changed man as smoothly as one could ask for. Edward Furlong (Danny) is quite a few steps below Norton in terms of quality, but his performance was still acceptable. He has a few scenes where he does an excellent job and a few where he's well below the average mark (his first scene, by a long shot), but for the most part, he's good enough. The rest of Derek's family is alright, nothing too spectacular, nothing too bad... but then, we don't really see enough of them to make a fair judgment call either. Ethan Suplee (Seth) had a relatively small part, but was beyond entertaining in all of his scenes. As I mentioned in my "Butterfly Effect" review, they really should have fit a few more scenes in for Ethan. That man is always getting the shaft, sheesh. There's a decently long list of extremely minor bit-part players as well, and I'd throw out an average ranking on most of them... nothing memorable enough to write about, though nothing bad enough to bitch about either.

Overall, this one is well worth your rental money if you're into drama films. I found this to be one of the very few movies that deserves the huge amount of praise it receives, which is a rare treat indeed. 9/10.
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Tristan #1: Tristan - added 11/19/2004, 06:26 PM
Amazing movie.
wikkidpiggykilla #2: wikkidpiggykilla - added 12/05/2004, 07:07 PM
Totally Amazing movie if you have never seen it RENT IT TODAY BUY IT TOMMOROW!!!!!10 1/2 /10
chad _isnt_fat #3: chad _isnt_fat - added 07/22/2005, 09:41 AM
now y wuldnt u do this movie for history or somthing.
Strait Killa #4: Strait Killa - added 03/30/2006, 01:41 AM
Probably one of the best movies i've ever seen. Edward Norton was absolutely brilliant in his portrayal of the Neo-Nazi leader, and his transformation throughout the movie is totally believable. The praise he got for this role was very well deserved. although some might not agree or even enjoy the storyline, it was carried out very well. Well worth viewing, just a great movie all around.
bluemeanie #5: bluemeanie - added 04/04/2006, 03:37 PM
What else can you say except this film was phenomenal. Edward Norton gives one of the greatest male performances in the history of cinema. This film makes such a powerful statement, the kind that Spike Lee films try to make, but get too confused to do so. I absolutely loved this film. One of my favorites. 10/10.
Deadwired2 #6: Deadwired2 - added 05/07/2006, 05:31 PM
This film is absolutely phenominal. Although at times the moral does get a bit hazy and confusing, it adds to the strength of the movie. It's fighting against hate, but yet, nearly every point provided by Derek in the dinner table scene is a valid one for racism. The tragic ending, his dad's ideals about their principal. It's like at times he wants the viewer to associate themselves with the racists views to understand just how hateful they are, because on it's own, a movie about Neo-Naziism wouldn't have been an entertaining one. This is one of the greatest movies of the past centuries.
Ginose #7: Ginose - added 10/19/2006, 10:58 PM
Damn good movie, felt it to be a little repetative at times, but it's message went through in a blaze of glory that few films manage to attain. 9/10
Luminaire #8: Luminaire - added 11/22/2007, 05:04 PM
Edward Norton is scary in his role here, and i agree Ethan Suplee gets the shaft. Hes involved in movies like Blow, Butterfly Effect and Now American History X and he doesn't get a chance to show his talents. I still have to turn away when he "steps" on somebody. 9.1/10
danimigra #9: danimigra - added 03/16/2008, 05:21 PM
10/10 easy for me... great messege for all the nazi scums..!!!
Lucid Dreams #10: Lucid Dreams - added 07/26/2010, 02:59 AM
Good review Chad on a great movie. 10/10
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