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Crime, Drama
IMDB rating:
Tony Kaye
Edward Norton as Derek Vinyard
Edward Furlong as Danny Vinyard
Beverly D'Angelo as Doris Vinyard
Avery Brooks as Dr. Bob Sweeney
Jennifer Lien as Davina Vinyard
Ethan Suplee as Seth Ryan
Stacy Keach as Cameron Alexander
Fairuza Balk as Stacey
Elliott Gould as Murray
Guy Torry as Lamont
William Russ as Dennis Vinyard
Joseph Cortese as Rasmussen (as Joe Cortese)
Jason Bose Smith as Little Henry (as Jason Bose-Smith)
Storyline: Derek Vineyard is paroled after serving 3 years in prison for killing two thugs who tried to break into/steal his truck. Through his brother, Danny Vineyard's narration, we learn that before going to prison, Derek was a skinhead and the leader of a violent white supremacist gang that committed acts of racial crime throughout L.A. and his actions greatly influenced Danny. Reformed and fresh out of prison, Derek severs contact with the gang and becomes determined to keep Danny from going down the same violent path as he did.
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Edward Norton's compelling and powerful performance of a highly misguided neo-nazi convict is a gripping and highly convincing one, and alongside Edward Furlong, this is an unmissable but hauntingly true interpretation by Tony Kaye that really brings home a message that's stuck with me forever.

Whether it was just a cleverly written script, a good director or an excellent cast, I'll never know but what ever it is, it works and it works very well.

Both Edward's reflect their prime ability to act with their portrayal of a fractured background and how it's influenced their behaviours and attitudes. It's an emotion evoking display from all the cast and a classic, classic film.
Powerful film
I was looking forward to see this film as I missed it at the cinema and am a firm believer that Edward Norton is one of the most talented actors of his generation and is always worth seeing (even if some of his films have given less than he deserves). It was maybe better that I only saw it recently as I was able to enjoy it without all the hype and fighting over who did what to who, or all the comments from director Kaye as to his opinions of the film. Having seen the pompous fool interviewed several times, I find it quite self assuring that I don't agree with his opinions of it!

The plot is a mix of flashback into Derek's hate filled past (told in b&w) and the present (colour) where he is desperate to save his brother and family from suffering anymore from his 'sins'. As a basic narrative the film struggles at times to make a solid story and seems to be trying too hard to create confrontations to up the drama within the film. It still works mind you but this is not it's best asset.

The main thing the film does well is to be a very true representation of white male disillusionment. The film avoids painting these people as monsters straightaway (although makes no bones that they are confused, misled and wrong). The arguments and discussions they have in the film are not so far from reality that the characters seem fiction – the characters and the film's world seem very real. The film's message that hate is no way to live no matter who it is directed at may be a little simplistic but it is a valid point. One particular weakness which I felt was a little hamfisted was Derek's 'road to Damascus' experience in prison – it was OK but was far too easy given the character we had just seen brutally kill several black men.

The other main selling point the film has is a performance by Norton that simply ensures he steals nearly every scene he is in. In b&w flashback he is at his best – a larger than life character who is never allowed to just be seen as a thug. Norton acts out the various stages of his life well and makeup ensures that he looks younger when required. In the present he is less dominant but still is very good giving a different performance. Furlong is also very strong, although he only has a few scenes where he is able to be outside of Norton's shadow. Support from Balk, Gould, D'Angelo and Brooks is mixed – Gould's Jewish character is only in the film to allow for one scene to occur, while Brooks' righteous teacher is simply a 'morally upright teacher' with no meat on his character.
exceptional drama about racism
The narrative.

A passionate emotive tale about racism in society where Norton (Fight Club) is juxtaposed with Furlong (Terminator 2) as brothers who contend with many racial issues in Southern America. The beginning is sensational. The camera comprises a slow moving long shot of a seaside, filmed in black and white to emphasise America's gentleness and emotion. The film continues its brilliance with a disturbing black and white flashback of why Norton ended up in prison and set the agenda to state the purpose of the film, that violence and racism is wrong in every society. The film preaches society values through the characters, especially Norton who is completely against the black stereotypes and wishes to take action to defend himself and his country. His speeches and actions through the film are remarkable and his character is very controversial, to pull this role was sensational and he thoroughly deserved his Oscar nomination for playing a character that is evil, violent and dominant but then sentimental and vulnerable over certain issues. The film is always engaging and extremely powerful. It entices older audiences with powerful moving speeches and violent actions by opinionated characters. Norton and Furlong were both outstanding and deserve praise for playing such emotional characters in this extremely violent film. The ending was remarkable, a shocking tactic by director Kaye who directed this film superbly throughout, but the ending is so powerful I was in tears. It was sensational the way it ended and will leave audiences asking many questions and wondering about their own actions and consequences. Flashbacks were a fantastic technique to emphasise the use of the character's lives and the significance of Norton's change. Always filmed in black and white the flashbacks set emotion and convince audiences of the brutality of the Vinyard lives.

Racism in society.

I'm not accustomed to racism and don't know enough about issues regarding Nazis but I can tell by watching this film that there was and still is something wrong in society. People are entitled to their own opinions about immigrants and other country values but to me it is wrong, there should be equality in the world and this film emphasises how wrong society actually is by encoding hate crimes and a powerful differentiation between different cultural groups.

It is so powerful and meaningful that it simply can't be ignored.

It will take a strong person to cope but it is an essential watch for the powerful racial, parenting, family, school and crime ideologies put forth.
A shocking and riveting film!
If you don't hold your breath at least once or say "wow", then you're clearly distracted watching this film.

This is one of those movies that when you leave the theater, you will have an uneasy feeling in your stomach. It's that good! And it's the best skinhead/neo-nazi film ever made. What made this film is the unforgettable performance by Edward Norton. Any time I hear his name, it will be associated with this film.

If you haven't seen this, you must, but be forewarned, some scenes are not for the faint of heart!

A perfect 10/10 from me!
2nd rate melodrama, unbelievably overrated..
According to the IMDb list of the top 250 films of all time, THIS comes in at a staggering #44. If we are to go by this incoherent list, we are to believe that "American History X" is a better film than Kubrik's "Clockwork Orange." It is superior to the "Deer Hunter," and the classic "Third Man." It even outshines Germany's epic masterpiece "Der Untergang/Downfall." After you are finished laughing, consider the film "American History X," a hack job so embarrassing that it's director, Tony Kaye wisely attempted to have his name removed from the final product. Why would a director want to deny responsibility for a film that is considered by countless idiots who consider this better than "Metropolis??" Because 'A.H.X' is a mediocre film at best. From it's infantile, laughable, simplistic, and thoroughly inaccurate views on racism, to it's soap opera like melodrama, down to it's gross, comical overblown stereotypes, such as the ex-gang member 'uncle tom' preachings of Avery Brooks, as the black school principal, to the ultra stereotyped Jewish ideal, played by none other than Elliott Gould! Why weren't more people offended by this obnoxious representation of minorities? And of course, the skinheads were portrayed as ugly, stupid, and faceless monsters, with the exception of Hollywood movie star Ed Norton, who is a fine actor, but who was just too pretty to be believable here. A word of advice to future filmmakers: If you want to make a powerful statement about serious political issues, avoid using the latest Hollywood pin-up hunk to get the point across, as it just does not work. Remember Alan Pakula's "Devil's Own" with Brad Pitt as the hunky IRA hero/terrorist? Enough said. Ed Norton plays Derek, a young man who turns into a hate preaching neo nazi skinhead after his fireman dad is shot while putting out a fire in the ghetto project. Norton does not look like he ever stepped foot inside a housing project, but that does not stop him from becoming the spokesperson/leader to a generation of mean, angry skinheads, all of which tower above Norton. And as good an actor as Norton is, I did not believe him in the role of a lower middle class skinhead; He sounded more like a sheltered private school boy trying to act tough. It seems that the filmmakers have never even met a real skinhead, as this portrayal was so unbelievably inaccurate. AHX makes the mistake that so many Hollywood films make; It attempts to manipulate our emotions with sad, wistful, dramatic music. This method was grossly overused here, and some of the dialog could barely be made out over the overpowering "backround" music. More evidence of this films failings; if the script, and performances are good, we will feel the emotions on our own. Intelligent moviegoers do not need our emotions to be "cued" by the appropriate music. This is a sure sign of a poor film. Derek's transformation from normal boy, to racist skinhead, to finally a strong, enlightened protector of his family and responsible brother/son, after an "Oz" like stint in jail, would work fine, for a film made for television. But the fact that this thoroughly underwhelming movie scored so high on this website is proof enough that these ratings cannot be taken seriously. It saddens me that so many people cannot see the difference between truly good cinema, and mediocrity. It is more tragic that so many people can be this easily manipulated by this kind of Hollywood dreck. Having had the opportunity to view hundreds of films from around the world, I am not impressed by Hollywood's repeated attempts at making serious, intelligent films that deal with issues such as racism and poverty. Hollywood needs to stick with the flashy entertainment, the explosions, the comedies, the Sci-fi, as for this type of film-making, Hollywood can't be beat. And for those who want to see a truly good film dealing with the same subject matter as A.H.X, take a look at "Mississippi Burning". Here is a rare example of when Hollywood got it right; a well made, beautifully realized piece of cinema, that deals with the racism issue without being corny or ridiculous. As far as "American History X" goes, do not believe the hype.
What goes around comes around
Evocative and controversial film deals with a neo-Nazi (Norton) whose life spirals out of control when he's incarcerated for his crimes, and discovers that the road to redemption is not going to be without collisions, irrespective of his contrition and new found respect. Furlong, as his kid brother, idolises Norton and follows him into the false promise of hatred, only to find he's been led astray and faces an even more arduous return from the brink, if he gets that opportunity.

Some interesting commentary concerning the seemingly innocuous origins of racism, how it incubates through adversity and is then practiced by naivety; a condition to be pitied rather than to fuel reverse hatred. Norton is perhaps too accomplished for the material he's given, because despite the film's sombre tone, it's still clichéd and pretty simplistic in its resolutions.

There's plenty of shock value in the beatings and sodomy on offer, but in my opinion, these are milestones in a weak plot that's only vying for conventional pathos. Not strictly the same angle, but I thought "Romper Stomper" was a more atmospheric and seemingly realistic portrayal of the neo-Nazi lifestyle in modern society, sans the Hollywood gloss.
Best movie of 1998
Powerful portrayal of Neo-Nazi movement in America. Told in series of flashbacks. Flawless acting by Edward Norton. Does its best to make the point that no one is ever right aand no one is ever wrong. I have a friend who was a Nazi and a racist. But upon walking out of the theater after this movie he hung his head in shame. This is why the film industry began.
Pure perfection
Edward Norton is one of the greatest actors there is, and American History X is his greatest performance. His actions, as well as those of Edward Furlong, Avery Brooks and especially Guy Torry, are flawless.

It's the story of how a bright kid, Derek Vinyard (Norton), with wrong ideas gets in to a skinhead-gang because of a cunning leader who uses him for his own purposes, to establish nazism in America. Its frightening to see how much Dereks racistic opinions makes sense when hes arguing for them, I almost found myself agreeing with Derek(!), and its easy to understand how some people have gone so bad because of group mentality.

Then, when we watch Dereks life in prison, it feels like i'm being redempted myself. He befriends a black guy (Torry), learns how he got more years there for stealing a TV than Derek got for his double murder, and he is astounded. He (we) suddenly see through his clever arguing, and discover how stupid his ideas really is.

This is a hands down MIGHTY movie, and one of the best you will ever see. A solid 10/10
It will leave you speechless.
AMERICAN HISTORY X (1998) Rating: 10/10

I could not applaud this film more. What really make this movie are 2 people. First is Tony Kaye, you have done a breathtaking directing job in turning what potentially could've been a replay of all the racist movies over the past years into a film that I will never forget. Whenever something comes up on the news about Nazis, skinheads, African-American fights etc I'll remember this film. Second person and probably the person who deserves it most is Edward Norton. Edward, your performance has changed my life. I have never seen a male give what is such an effortlessly amazing and truly masterpiece of a performance. Were you really acting, Ed, or was Tony Kaye just following you around for a few years? Kudos also to script-writers, Edward Furlong, other supporting characters and good cinematography and design which flips from black-and-white to colour cleverly. This movie is totally violent, has a lot of coarse language and is extremely graphic about all its subjects. This is what they should really be teaching kids in school, all about what really happens in America. I don't live in America myself but I thought it gave a very apt description of skinheads who live there. Totally amazing stuff, American History X earns a place on my top 10 films of all time, making it not only the best movie of 1998 but the third best of the decade, following American Beauty (it is obviously good to have American as the first word for your film title – all the movies that start with the country are fantastic – American Beauty, this film, American Pie, American Psycho, so on and so on) and The Shawshank Redemption. Truly unforgettable cinema.
Jarring, in a good way.
This is one of those movies everyone needs to see. The reality in it is not beautiful. It can't be wrapped up in a pretty pink box. It's the kind of unbearable truth that should make you see that you are exactly the same as Danny or Derek, even if you say in your head, "I'm not that awful." It's painful because it has to be.

I think this is the film that has the capacity to revolutionize our flawed society, if only to promote discussion and change some minds.

Ignorance only spawns further ignorance, so see it; hear the message. I recommend seeing it with children old enough to tolerate violence and look beyond it. Talk about the themes of the movie with kids, as, in my opinion, this film was created to spark conversation about the issues of hate, prejudice and defining one's self. I suggest this film for anyone who plans on living realistically in this "quick to judge" era.
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