The film's basic message--that hate is learned and can be unlearned--is expressed through Derek's kid brother, Danny (Edward Furlong), whose sibling hero-worship increases after Derek is imprisoned (or, in Danny's mind, martyred) for the killing of two black men. Lacking Derek's gift of rebel rhetoric, Danny is easily swayed into the violent, hateful lifestyle that Derek disowns during his thoughtful time in prison. Once released, Derek struggles to save his brother from a violent fate, and American History X partially suffers from a mix of intense emotions, awkward sentiment and predictably inevitable plotting. And yet British director Tony Kaye (who would later protest against Norton's creative intervention during post-production) manages to juggle these qualities--and a compelling clash of visual styles--to considerable effect. No matter how strained their collaboration may have been, both Kaye and Norton can be proud to have created a film that addresses the issue of racism with dramatically forceful impact. --Jeff Shannon, Amazon.com
Cast and Crew
Running Time: 114 mins approx
Films like this need to be made because the problems confronted are still very real. The film takes you into the mind of a hardcore, militant racist in a world were he has to confront that which he hates. The debate between Norton and Eliott Gould is masterful, Gould's character being Jewish leads to inevitable consequences. The politics of the white power movement are depicted amazingly and it is a refreshing change for a skinhead to be depicted in a morally balanced way.
It is a shame that, because of the language, this film will never be shown in schools. If the teachers werent so seemingly scared of the language that most teenagers use anyway, this film could easily be used as a great film to analyse morals and beliefs in our society.
In the year 2003, we should have evolved past racism. Unfortunately, we havent.
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