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American History X (1998)
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Review Date: November 14, 1998
Director: Tony Kaye
Writer: David McKenna
Producers: John Morrissey
Actors:
Edward Norton
Edward Furlong
Avery Brooks
Beverly D'Angelo
Plot:
Super-neo-nazi-skinhead Derek Vinyard (Norton) gets put into jail for killing two black youths that were trying to steal his car. During his stay in the bighouse, his younger brother Danny (Furlong) follows his hateful ways and joins the nearest skinhead clan. While in jail, Derek goes through many changes, and comes out with a new outlook on life. Now, he wants to relay his newfound enlightenment to his impressionable brother, before it's too late.
Critique:
Intense, powerful, stylish directorial debut from British director Tony Kaye, pulls together all aspects of dramatic achievement, including a solid and emotional story line, an original film style and solid performances by its cast, most specifically, the genuinely flawless portrayal by Edward Norton. This film drives home many of the sentiments seething beneath the hate of many people in this country. It probes to explain and unravel their seeds of antipathy, while presenting us with a fair portrayal of the many sides of the human development. Why do we hate? And even when we do, do we allow it to serve any real purpose in our lives, or do we simply hate because we need something or someone else to blame? One of the characters said it best in the film, "Has anything you've done, made your life better?"

The answer is quite obvious.

This film grapples with many of the hypotheses behind these questions, and insists on educating us through creative and thought-provoking imagery, and solid performances by its main protagonists. This film reminded me of 1995's DEAD MAN WALKING (8/10), with the main performance by Norton rating on the same scale as that of Penn in the former film. In fact, I see Norton's performance as the more complex of the two, since he actually portrays two polar opposite personalities in this same movie. And despite Norton's real-life Ivy League background, he manages to pull off an impressive acting gig as the head skinhead who eventually clues in as to the hypocrisies of his peers. Mr. Oscar, please save a seat for Edward Norton for the end of the year nominations for Best Actor, because this is definitely one deserved performance. All that and he's built like a champ in this film. Wow, what a man!

The rest of the cast was also well qualified to handle their posts, with the other Edward, Furlong, handing in another well-developed performance of a sulken youth whose heart is pierced with sensitivity. The only small issues that I did have with this movie was that it was a tiny bit too long, and that the portrayal of Norton's girlfriend by Fairuza Balk, was completely one-dimensional. The flashbacks were handled extremely well, the style of the film enhanced its viewing, and the film's gut-wrenching conclusion drove home every point made in its previous two hours. The openness of some minds does not alleviate the continued presence of hate and fear in our society. It is up to each and every individual to manage their own rationale of hate, and determine the truth within its purpose. Who does it really benefit?

This film bleeds the truth, speaks the lingo, and delivers on all counts of entertainment, socially relevant value and solid performances. Definitely one of the best told movies of the year!
(c) 2015 Berge Garabedian
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10:03PM on 10/10/2007
I agree this one powerfull movie that everyone should see at least once in their lifes. I like how the used color for the Danny story and used black & white for the flashbacks. Norton gives tour de force of a performance.
I agree this one powerfull movie that everyone should see at least once in their lifes. I like how the used color for the Danny story and used black & white for the flashbacks. Norton gives tour de force of a performance.
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6:02AM on 07/16/2006
My all-time favorite film which still, to this day, maintains a tight grip on that position with its unbelievably powerful story, a jaw-dropping performance from Edward Norton, awesome direction, and a conclusion which always turns my tearducts on full blast. It sugar coats nothing, with real issues laid bare before us, as well as a message of hope and redemption, something we've all seen before, but never like this. Even right now just writing this and thinking about it, my heart begins to
My all-time favorite film which still, to this day, maintains a tight grip on that position with its unbelievably powerful story, a jaw-dropping performance from Edward Norton, awesome direction, and a conclusion which always turns my tearducts on full blast. It sugar coats nothing, with real issues laid bare before us, as well as a message of hope and redemption, something we've all seen before, but never like this. Even right now just writing this and thinking about it, my heart begins to throb. I've honestly never been so moved by a film.
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11:56AM on 01/19/2006
Movies like this come around too seldomly. A movie that tells two different stories at once with the same guy being the main character in both are just awesome (Memento comes to mind - I know Memento came out later, but I'm just now writing this critique). Another comparison to Memento is that you can tell which story is being told by the B&W and color.
There is no one thing that comes out in first place is what makes this movie awesome. The struggle of the central character(s), the story
Movies like this come around too seldomly. A movie that tells two different stories at once with the same guy being the main character in both are just awesome (Memento comes to mind - I know Memento came out later, but I'm just now writing this critique). Another comparison to Memento is that you can tell which story is being told by the B&W and color.
There is no one thing that comes out in first place is what makes this movie awesome. The struggle of the central character(s), the story itself, the editing, damn, the list just goes on.
Kudos to Edward Norton - who got screwed come Oscar time (no surprise, so did Memento). Norton plays a skinhead who, after having a bad experience and perhaps a revelation in prison, tries to convince his brother that hate is not the way to go. Edward Furlong plays the troubled brother pretty well also.
No doubt.
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