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on 28 August 2017
What can I say that hasn't already been said about this film. The subject that it covers although made in the late 90's still has its relevance today. I especially like the mix of colour and black and white camera work. Black and white for past events and colour for the present. What an ending too quite shocking and harrowing and one I didn't expect. What else is there to say? Brilliant film. Very well directed and picture looks even better on Blu Ray. Highly recommended.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 17 April 2013
Tony Kaye's 1998 film attempts to tackle the issue of American white supremacists (and racism, more generally) head on and, whilst the film has more than its fair share of OTT and clichéd scenes, for me, it just about qualifies as a worthy effort. This is largely because Kaye's cast, particularly the central pairing of Edward Norton as the erstwhile neo-Nazi, Derek Vinyard, and his younger, impressionable brother, Danny, played with a subtle mix of innocent naiveté and youthful bravado by Edward Furlong, is almost uniformly outstanding.

For me, the film gradually improves as it goes along. Although tackling such a poisonous subject is necessarily difficult and almost by definition does not call for particularly subtle film-making, some of the film's early scenes of the gatherings of Derek's racist cohorts, including the initial killings for which Derek is incarcerated, are too sensationalist (and also overdo the slo-mo). Kaye's practice of showing his flashback scenes in black-and-white is also, for me, an unnecessary distraction. On the other hand, the scene where Derek confronts his stressed-out mother Doris (an impressive Beverly D'Angelo), sister Davina (Jennifer Lien) and his mother's Jewish 'friend' Murray (a nicely subdued Elliot Gould) at the dining table, violently espousing his views to the admiration of on-looking Danny, is brilliantly done.

It may just be a coincidence, but for me the film improves significantly as Derek's prison backstory, in which he begins to think more deeply about his extreme views, is revealed. These flashback scenes also contain some moments of great (comic) acting and dialogue between Derek and his black 'co-worker inside' Lamont (an outstanding Guy Torry, whose comic delivery is pure Richard Pryor). Other notable acting turns are also delivered by Stacy Keach's calm, predatory racist supremo Cameron Alexander (a more extreme version of the character he played in John Sayles' Honeydripper) and by Avery Brooks, as Derek's, and latterly Danny's, pragmatic black school teacher Bob Sweeney.

But overall the acting hours are stolen by Norton, who is equally convincing as the ranting, violent bigot and the caring, sympathetic family member (although I guess his transition from one to the other might be regarded as a little too easy for comfort). Norton was a relative newcomer to the screen at the time American History X was made, but I have (to date) not seen a more impressive performance from him.

Although (for me) Kaye's film lacks the subtlety of more effective films on the subject of racism, such as Shane Meadows' This Is England or Spike Lee's Do The Right Thing (or even Alan Clarke's TV drama Made In Britain), it is a worthy effort (particularly in depicting its portrayal from the relatively unusual viewpoint of a white supremacist).
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on 20 March 2014
I can not believe that I only watched this for the first time yesterday. I was equally surprised that I had never even heard of Edward Norton! What a performance he gives! How he didn't win a Oscar for this is beyond me. It must require some serious acting talent to make the racist statement he makes and keep a straight face. I will also give a mention to the fantastic Edward Furlong who gives a performance equal to the one he gave in Terminator 2 which is saying something! The supporting cast are also superb, especially Derick's black friend in prison.

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!
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on 1 August 2017
Whoa ! This flim is way above my head ! This was waym beyond of my league, of seeing the whole flim. This bugs me of 'HOW' this writer manage to write like this !? it is rare to see anyone to have this gifted standard... This flim, I was like, 11 out of 10.. if I was a lawyer or barrister, I will figure out of how to deal with this... This is for "OUR" society, I am talking about..
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on 15 January 2015
Having seen this movie, it confronts the brutal reality of racism in the USA, where other films shy away from such issues, "X" hits the nail bang on the head - in a nutshell, it's up there with another fantastic movie : 1989's "Do The Right Thing"!.

With excellent performances from Edward Norton, Stacy Keach, Elliot Gould, Beverly D'Angelo, Avery Brooks and Edward Furlong etc, this "powerhouse" of a film is an unflinching portrait of one's struggle to confront his past - with tragic consequences.

This is a movie to have in anyone's collection, it looks like I've finally found a selection of films to get in my ever growing set of a varied genre of subjects in my DVD collection.
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on 19 January 2011
As most of the reviewers have said "American History X" is a stunning, powerful and emotional work that lays bare the fascist philosophy of violence and racism by skinheads in the US who feel angry and resentful about their bleak unfulfilled lives and the social problems around them and as happens the world over they lay the blame at the door of minorities in their midst, in their case black people and Jews and they worship the Nazi ideology that carried out the kind of policies the extreme right in the US would emulate if God forbid they were ever in power.

Edward Norton is brilliant as an intelligent, articulate but hate-filled skinhead who kills two young black people who try to steal his car and when in prison on a manslaughter charge his view of life and himself is transformed by an unexpected source and after his release he seeks to turn his younger brother (superbly played by Edward Furlong) away from the kind of life that lead to him going to jail. His brother is asked to write an essay called "American History X" by his teacher about his jailed brother, how he came to be in his present situation, his ideas and the effect of what he did on his family and in doing this he starts to question his own life and what will happen to him if he continues to associate with right wing skinheads in their fight against black people.

The film is occasionaly too flashy with its unecessary "Wild Bunch" type slow motion sequences but nevertheless it is an important work highlighting what racial hatred does to individuals and families and how easy it is to scapegoat others for the problems of the world and build up deep seated resentments that are destructive and divisive in modern day societies.
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on 15 December 2014
👍
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on 26 August 2015
Average
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on 5 October 2009
American History X is a stunning film. For a long time I've believed that all politicians should be forced to go into space and made to look back on the Earth, to give themselves a sense of proportion. In a similar way, I think everyone who's ever blamed a problem on someone else's race or cultural background (so that's probably most of us) should be made to watch this film. It's intelligent, believable, well made and you will actually really care for the characters in it. I felt quite wiped out at the end (and not because of the bottle of wine I'd been drinking either). It's basically about a raciest who gets sent to gaol for killing two people. Once he's released he tries to sort out the mess he created before he was sent down, with a special focus on his relationship with his younger brother. Once or twice I found myself listening to the dialogue between the characters and feeling some sympathy for the views being offered, before realising it was a lot of raciest bollocks. However, this does give you an insight into how groups such as British National Party manage to get people to vote for them, by distorting language, facts and history to provide a creditable explanation for their wishes. It's not always comfortable viewing but this is a film everyone should see. It has Avery Brookes (Captain Benjaminn Sisko from Star Trek Deep Space Nine) in it too. Go watch.
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on 28 June 2015
This is a very moving and tragic film about two brothers in LA that suffer in the hands of neo Nazism which the older brother becomes reformed and wants to prevent his younger brother going on a similar dark path. The acting by Edward Norton is grandiose, Edward Furlong does not have much to do even though at the end there is a demise involved. This is a difficult watch in some scenes since it deals with a thought provoking subject, however it is groundbreaking drama film. Such a shame that Tony Kaye did not do much after this.
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