Sunday, April 01, 2012

American History X (1998)

Theatrical Poster
Source: Wikipedia
A boy follows his brother's violent way of life as a neo-Nazi.

After killing two black gang members that attempted to break into his car, Derek Vinyard (Edward Norton) is sent to prison leaving his mother, brother Danny (Edward Furlong) and two sisters to fend for themselves. His firefighter father died years previously when he was shot in the line of duty by other black gang members.

Upon release from his three year term, Derek is horrified to find that Danny has joined the same neo-Nazi gang that he was second-in-command of. Danny clearly gets into trouble but one black teacher is willing to work with him, encouraging him to get his feelings out into an essay entitled "American History X", telling the story of his brother's introduction into the movement.

American History X is currently the highest rated movie on IMDb that hasn't scored five stars in an Empire Magazine review - which was the main reason for watching this film. After reading the back of the DVD box, which proclaims violence as a way of life I wasn't overly impressed, but nothing could prepare me for what I was about to witness.

Of course, American History X can be ridiculed for the two reasons for Derek to turn his life downhill and back again - the influence of his father in his younger years is eventually overturned by his meeting a black guy in prison - but the deep themes that drive the film more than make up for its lacklustre backbone.

Racism aside, and family is the big issue in the film - and especially the influence an older sibling can have on their younger brothers and sisters. Edward Furlong, who was given the monumental challenge to narrate the film, is also the actor behind Derek's brother and he does a fine job at portraying Danny's benevolence alongside the other raw sadistic feelings that are beginning to develop.

Isolation is also covered along with its polar opposite of gang culture. It firmly lays the blame of the brother's predicament on the breakup of the family - which is a huge current affair, even today - followed by their integration into the neo-Nazi community. Derek's jail time is shown as the isolation that was required in order for him to reassess his beliefs. Bizarrely, despite the glamourisation of violence within the film, this also helps to show its moral heart.

Sure, it has a few faults, but nothing to stop the well deserved 5-star commendation.

24 comments:

  1. Yoiu know, as a movie fan, this is one that I have always meant to watch but still havent done so. I have only heard good things about it. Good first post for the challenge =)

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    1. I chose this film because it is the highest rated film on IMDb that didn't get 5-stars in Empire. I have no idea why they didn't rate it 5 stars!

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  2. Hiya .. I love being told about movies - this is not one I'd have watched .. but we need to be reminded that it's not necessarily entertainment - there's that hidden message or two underneath - I'm sure I'd learn a lot .. thanks - great A .. cheers Hilary

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    1. This film is indeed far deeper than entertainment. There are all kinds of moral issues that are portrayed.
      Thanks for the comment :)

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  3. I expected to hate this movie but I found it riveting - great performances by a range of excellent actors.

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    1. I had no idea what to expect from the film. Truth be told, I love it. It's powerful and engaging.
      Thanks for the comment :)

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  4. Interesting! I never saw this film but it sounds like there's a lot of depth to it.

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  5. this was a strong film!

    Great start... to the challenge "A" is for Awesome!
    Jeremy [Retro-Zombie]
    A to Z Co-Host
    IZOMBIE: Visit the Madness

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    1. Thanks Jeremy. 25 posts left to go!

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  6. It is interesting that you start with this film as I have been meaning to watch it for a long time but keep pushing it back down the queue of my movie list. I'm gonna pull it out and watch it tonight. Thanks for the reminder.

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    1. It was a toss up between this and American Psycho. IMDb's average rating chose for me.
      Let me know what you think of it!

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  7. Sounds like a powerful story. I imagine it's hard to watch.

    http://weavingataleortwo.blogspot.com/

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  8. I love this movie. Edward Norton is a favorite of mine. Great post and challenge theme.
    Happy A-Z blogging!

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  9. I love this movie - Edward Norton is a favorite of mine. Great post and great challenge theme.
    Happy A-Z blogging!

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  10. I agree, this was a five star movie. It was very dramatic and very well done.

    The curb stomp gives me nightmares to this day!

    All in all this was a great story and has some great learning experiences and shows how an older sibling can definitely influence younger ones. And not always in a good way.

    Cara

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    1. The curb stomp was horrific! I had to ask my family exactly what had happened because I flinched away.

      I agree with the influence (but also the father was just as bad). With three younger siblings, I wonder how detrimental I've been to their lives. *evil grin*.

      Thanks for the comment :)

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  11. One of my husband's favorite films. This one and 'Fight Club' solidified Norton as one of his favorite actors.

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    1. Ah, I need to see Fight Club. Trouble is I'm not sure how good it is because no-one will talk about it.

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  12. Still haven't seen this one even though I adore Norton. Thanks for the review!

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    1. It's a must see. Go buy now! Thanks for the comment.

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  13. Hello! Dropping in from the A-Z Challenge - an excellent first post choice - although one I haven't seen. I will one of these days!

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  14. Great choice for "A"
    I first saw this when I was in middle school. It was very eye opening to me. While hard to watch at times, it had a good message. Thanks for the Review. I will be coming back through out the challenge. Your topic and blog are great!
    *\o/*
    CW3
    readysetyoubet.blogspot.com

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  15. I love this movie. I look forward to reading more reviews.

    Stuart

    Lloyd of Gamebooks - virtualfantasies.blogspot.com

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