Having just brought American History X and watched it on DVD, I was surprised at what a good film it was. Starring Edward Norton and Edward Furlong, it is a thoughtful, provoking film that in no way glamorises racial hatred, but offers a brutal, lingering, shocking and unflinching look at racism.
The story focuses on Derek Vinyard (Norton) and his kid brother, Danny. (Furlong - still baby faced from Terminator 2) Derek has been released from prison, following a stretch for the murder of two black youths who were trying to steal his car. Derek's hatred and neo-nazi attitude are fuelled by his father's murder and racist teachings. A prominant figure in neo-nazi circles, Derek is released a changed man and has no intention of reprising his old ways, much to the disgust of his neo nazi friends, and girlfriend.
Derek's redemption in prison comes after he is brutally attacked by other neo-nazis in prison, who didn't approve of his friendship with a black inmate. A shattered Vinyard is left to realise the error of his ways and turn his life around. He is dismayed to realise his brother has started copying him, and tries to get his brother to change his ways too.
Norton and Furlong are surprisingly well cast. Norton has immense screen presence, managing to convey the story of a man who has realised the error of his ways, and wants to put his life back on track.
Furlong, displays the arrogance he inherits from his brother's former days of neo-nazi activities and like his brother is humbled as he learns that life is too short to spend it filled with hate. (A fact which is later underlined for Furlong and his family.)
The film is very stylised. Flashbacks are shot in slow motion black and white, and are full of impact and can be very shocking. The film pulls no punches, and is brutal throughout, especially when the film reaches its bloody, tragic climax.
All in all, a well thought out, provoking film that is certainly worth watching - if you can cope with the brutality it meets out to everyone involved, and the bad language throughout.