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American History X [Blu-ray]  [Region Free]
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This controversial film stars Edward Norton as Derek Vinyard, an angry young man seeking retribution for the murder of his father. Derek becomes the leader of a skinhead white-power movement, espousing racist views to his peers and using his intelligence to stir up as much race-hate as possible. Derek's actions culminate in murder and he is jailed. Three years later his girlfriend (Fairuza Balk) and brother Danny (Edward Furlong) await his release, but discover that Derek is a changed man, ashamed of his past and no longer driven by hatred. However, the consequences of his actions still haunt Derek's family and the threat of a return to violence is never far away.
Perhaps the highest compliment you can pay to Edward Norton is that his Oscar-nominated performance in American History X nearly convinces you that there is a shred of logic in the tenets of white supremacy. If that statement doesn't horrify you, it should; Norton is so fully immersed in his role as a neo-Nazi skinhead that his character's eloquent defense of racism is disturbingly persuasive--at least on the surface. Looking lean and mean with a swastika tattoo and a mind full of hate, Derek Vinyard (Norton) has inherited racism from his father, and that learning has been intensified through his service to Cameron (Stacy Keach), a grown-up thug playing tyrant and teacher to a growing band of disenfranchised teens from Venice Beach, California, all hungry for an ideology that fuels their brooding alienation.
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 --This text refers to the DVD edition.
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The story is griping and very well told and touches on issues which are still reverent today. In terms of pure power the prison scenes are on par with Shawhank which is about as good a complement as I could possibly give. My jaw dropped during the bit when his black prison friend wrapped the sheets around himself and pretended to be in the KKK. I had never watched anything like it. It dose a fantastic job of highlighting how foolish racism is and I agree the certain parts of it should be on shown in schools to highlight issue in todays society.
To conclude this is by a long mile the best film of 1998 and one of the best ever made!
I take the point of the previous reviewer that this film reduces some of the neo-nazis to cardboard cut-outs, but to be fair its approach was ambitious enough already. (To fully develop all the characters in such a complex subject might require a stage tragedy rather than a general release movie.) Similarly, the handful of liberals were probably necessary, sadly, to prevent idiots taking the film as a vindication of their so-called beliefs, and also to avoid alienating much of the target audience. For a film released in 1999 this was a very brave production.
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Edward Norton deliveries a powerful performance, demonstrating how an...Read more