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This film follows the story of Edward Norton as Derek, a Neo Nazi and part of a white supremist group who goes to prison for murder.
Edward Norton is absolutely fantastic in this film as the skin head Derek, in my opinion.
He changes while he in inside and is horrified upon being released to discover that his younger brother, Danny, is following in his footsteps and is hanging around with all of his old gang mates, with whom he is trying to distance himself.
The film progresses with Derek trying to point Danny in the right direction, trying to get him to see the error of his ways, and pleading with him not to end up making the same mistakes and ending up in prison.
The film features a lot of flash back scenes as the story goes along, so we see how Derek used to be compared to how he is now he has left prison. The flashback scenes are not confusing though as they are all filmed in black and white which I think is a nice touch.
The film is pretty uncomfortable to watch at times and some scenes in particular are just downright disturbing but wow, what a powerful film!
This really is a film that hits you in the face and I was left thinking about this film for weeks after first watching it. For me, it is one of those films that I watch time and time again and thoroughly enjoy every time.
Film Only Review
~American History X~
Released : 1999
Runtime : 119 minutes
Director : Tony Kaye
Certification : 18
Availability - New and used from Amazon priced from 51p. Also available on Blu-ray.
Prior to being imprisoned for killing two thugs, Derek Vinyard, a Neo Nazi, was the leader of a white supremacist gang. Derek is released on parole and finds his younger brother Danny involved in the same trouble and vows to save his brother from ending up like him. The film is narrated by Danny himself.
Derek Vinyard - Edward Norton
Danny Vinyard - Edward Furlong
Doris Vinyard - Beverley D'Angelo
Ethan Suplee - Seth Ryan
Stacey Keach - Fairuza Balk
When it comes to films, I do have my favourites and American History X is far up on my list. I was first convinced to watch this with my fiance and not only did the film become a favourite, Ed Norton became one of my favourite actors too. I have yet to be disappointed by his acting skills. This wouldn't usually be my type of film but it pulled me in from the moment I started watching it.
The film is approached differently to other films especially as Danny does the narrating. The film does a bit of jumping between different times but it is very easy to follow and keep up with in my opinion. American History X opens up with Danny in the principles office regarding a report he had written on Hitler. Fearing that he is going the same way as his brother, the principle insists that he writes a report on his imprisoned brother Derek. From here on, the film flash backs to Dereks life prior to him being arrested.
This isn't an easy film to watch. It is an amazingly powerful film with fantastic direction. Ed Norton is absolutely perfect to the role. As a skin head, covered in offensive tattoos, he is the perfect choice of leaded for the supremacist gang. There are references to the Vinyard father being shot by a black drug dealer which played a part in Derek becoming who he was as a man. Supporting actors including other gang members and his girlfriend Stacey play minor roles in the film but the main focus is on Derek and Danny Vinyard.
As the film progresses, we play witnesses to hardcore racism from this gang. It isn't nice to watch but it is real life as gangs like this do still exist. There is a lot of swearing throughout the film. In a short space of time, the Vinyards lives are changed forever as three black thugs attempt to steal Dereks car. This particular scene is very difficult to watch and not for the faint hearted. The flash back scene is in black and white which adds to the intense nature of it in my opinion. The film jumps to and from Dereks time in prison and his release. As you would expect, he doesn't have an easy time in prison and a particular scene is uncomfortable to watch.
Derek is released on parole as a reformed character. His image, views on life and general love for his family are evident. He seems like a new person but has the challenge of saving his brother from becoming overly involved with the gang. Danny hasn't learned from his brothers mistakes and is a stubborn, tough character. His brother tries to protect him but the damage is done. I found the end of the film to come at just the right time. I found myself changing from becoming shocked at the hate through the film to rather upset.
American History X is an amazing film but one which you need to watch with an open mind in my opinion. I found the pace to be excellent and that the narration aspect really enhanced the film and made it more personal. The acting in the film is top notch. American History X is a strong, emotional film which often had me in suspense.
The 18 rating is very much warranted as there is a lot of swearing, murder, violence, sexual content and general messages of hate. This isn't a film I would choose to watch with my parents as it is pretty hardcore! This is by far the best Ed Norton film in my opinion. He is so adaptable and gives an outstanding performance in American History X.
Thanks for reading :)
American History X
New Line Cinema 1998
Film and DVD review
As many of you who have read my movie reviews it will come as no surprise that this review is of another movie starring Edward Norton, my favourite actor.
Norton plays Derek Vinyard. He is the colourful (just as long as that colour is white) leader of a gang of white supremists. I say leader, but he is more a captain as the gang is the brainchild of an older racist named Cameron, played by Stacey Keach. Vinyard is more his second in command.
After the death of his father, who was a fire fighter, in fire at a drug den, Derek swears revenge as it was most probably a black man who fired the fatal shot.
Vinyard leads the gang on some vile and despicable raids on Chinese store owners (that is when he can't get his hands on any of the local black people). Vinyard is one of nature's demons, but to his family he is the charismatic and someone they look up to, even if it is with a certain amount of fear and trepidation. His younger brother, Danny, played by Edward Furlong, sees Derek as a hero, a champion cleaning up the streets, someone making the white picket fences that much whiter and white owned once more.
Vinyard is becoming angrier and angrier and is spiralling out of control on a binge of hate and racism. Anything that does not conform to his way of thinking is in danger of his wrath. Eventually Vinyard goes too far and ends up brutally murdering a young black man. He receives a prison sentence and only serves three years as while he is inside he becomes a model prisoner and despises what he had become. He realises that he had been brainwashed while younger by Cameron and knows that he has to save his little brother Danny before the same fate befalls him.
While in prison Vinyard is visited by an old school teacher after being brutally beaten and raped by his own neo-Nazi brethren after talking to a black prisoner. This black school teacher tells Vinyard that racism solves nothing and his words have a profound effect. The black prisoner that Derek spoke to becomes his only friend and persuades the other black prisoners not to beat him. The teacher also tells Vinyard that his brother Danny wants to be just like him and his hate for black people and anything 'not white' is becoming stronger under the influence of Cameron.
Vinyard leaves prison a changed man and confronts Cameron, telling him to leave his brother alone. Cameron makes it clear to the gang that Derek is not to be trusted as he is no longer one of them. For Derek, convincing Danny will be difficult as he has had three more years of hate and anger poured down his young throat. The treatment from black kids at his school does not endear them to Danny and hate breeds hate.
What ensues is a rollercoaster ride of emotion, soul searching and an attempt by Derek to rid his brother of the same poison that flowed through his own veins for so many years at that same age and beyond.
What takes place next is as much of a shock as it is a sad reminder of what can happen to good people as well as bad.
Cast and Crew
Director Tony Kaye
Tommy Kaye is much better known as a music director and has worked with some prominent people in the industry, earning himself six Grammy nominations. The most famous or notable were the Red Hot Chilli Peppers 'Dani California' and Soul Asylums 'Runaway Train'. He has also collaborated with Iggy Pop, Chris Martin, Justin Timberlake, Kanye West, Jay-Z, Keith Richards and Brian Wilson to name a few.
The remarkable thing about his direction on American History X was the fact that it was his first movie and he reportedly hated it and wanted nothing to do with it on completion. In fact he was so far removed from the project that it was left to Ed Norton to edit the movie and get it to the screen.
After completing the movie for the first time he went on to make a second cut, which was nothing like the first. It was shorter and didn't have the same emotional kick. New Line rejected it and the editor Jerry Greenberg got his head together with Norton and they made a third edit, which New Line accepted.
Kaye hated it so much that he wanted his name removed from the movie but could not legally get it done. He even tried to call himself 'Humpty Dumpty' on the credits. Anyone asking Kaye about his involvement on the movie today will receive the reply 'What movie' or 'It wasn't me!'
Kaye has a very eccentric look with his long grey beard and looks like he is auditioning for a production of Rip Van Winkel.
Kaye didn't make another movie for eleven years. He preferred to make documentaries and music videos where the process was shorter and there were less people involved in the production. He has since directed the 2009 movie 'Black Water Transit' and a 2011 offering 'Detachment', starring Adrien Brody. Detachment is another hard hitting movie which depicts the decline of education and its system in American high schools over the last decade.
Edward Norton as Derek Vinyard
Even though Ed Norton was nominated for a best supporting actor Oscar in his first ever role in 'Primal Fear', alongside Richard Gere and then gave a convincing performance in 'Rounders', it was American History X that first made the movie industry, and fans alike, stand up and take notice. People were starting to realise that here was an actor with something special.
His performance as Derek Vinyard is second to none. It has everything any budding actor could only dream of. Norton portrays the rage, anger, hate and downright nastiness of Derek Vinyard with an intensity so rarely captured on screen. The comedown as Vinyard realises he is wrong is subtle and believable. The emotional turmoil he goes through for the rest of the movie is played to perfection. I would go as far as saying that this is one of Norton's finer roles, even though the film may not be as high profile as some of his later projects. At the time it was a career defining performance, an explosive performance full of grit and charisma. This role, however, may have never come about for Norton because Joaquin Phoenix was originally offered the part but turned it down. No offence to Mr Pheonix, as he is a fine actor in his own right, but I don't think he could have pulled off the role of Derek Vinyard as good as Ed Norton did and I for one am glad that Norton ended up in the movie.
Edward Furlong as Danny Vinyard
Famously known for his role in 'Terminator Two', Edward Furlong played Derek's younger brother Danny in this movie. It is essentially the pivotal role of the movie in that we see a lot of the plot unravel through his eyes. It's a fine performance from a fine young actor. Sadly Furlong's career has not been what many expected it to be. Although he works on three or four movies a year, and has done so since American History X in 1998, he only lands parts that could be best explained or categorised as supporting roles. His life has been plagued by drink and drug abuse. He has been arrested on numerous occasions, been divorced twice and once told a judge that he was 'completely broke'.
Avery Brooks as Dr Robert Sweeney
Brooks plays Danny's history teacher and the teacher that goes to prison to speak to Derek. It is a poignant role in the movie as Sweeney is the one who makes Derek see the error of his ways. He tells Derek that he used to hate white kids as a youth but then realised that it solved nothing. Brooks is a likable guy and is actually a college professor in real life, as well as a Jazz musician, an actor and, believe it or not, an opera singer.
Stacey Keach as Cameron Alexander
I must confess to not liking Keach a whole lot in his earlier days. I always found him a bit slimy and not just because he played slimy roles. Even some of the more dignified roles seemed to irk me a little. I must admit, with this in mind, he made a perfect choice for the role of Cameron Alexander the extreme white supremist and leader of the gang. In later life I think Keach has mellowed and I can actually stand to watch him on screen now.
I own the region One American first release of this movie on DVD. I also own the region Two version and the Blu-ray version.
All I can say about the Blu-ray version is that the movie has been remastered and you can now watch it in HD. There are no real extras to speak of, apart from the original theatrical trailer and a few deleted scenes. My region One version contains the same, so it is very likely it has just been switched to Blu-ray.
When it comes to racism and the subject of skin colour, the world can be a much divided place and in this irritating climate of political correctness and tentative walking on egg shells, we have to be very careful how and when we express ourselves. As an example I once said that I thought it ridiculous that I couldn't fly my St Georges flag to support the English football team in case I offended Muslims. I stated that the mosque not too many miles down the road displayed their countries flag and I had no problem with it. An Indian colleague branded me as a racist. What he didn't know was that I was married to an Indian woman for eight years, with two mixed race children and my best friend and best man at the wedding was black. Not to mention that my comment in the first place was not racist at all. I felt I needed to mention this as a precursor to how difficult it must be to make a movie like this.
If one has to tread very carefully in order to keep everyone happy, then one must also have a certain range of freedom to get the message across. It's a tough line to walk and one that has landed many a film maker in hot water.
American history X is one of the better movies made about racism in my opinion. It tackles the issue by way of disarming the problem at its most vile and intense. What better way to tackle the subject of racism than through the eyes of a racist. A racist who then realises that he has been wrong all these years and that nothing he has done, that was racially motivated, has changed anything in the world, apart from causing death and misery for all those concerned.
If racism carries the plot of the movie then it is Ed Norton who carries the film. I cannot say enough about his role in this movie.
The intense parts of the film, or shall we say the controversial parts with a racial element are filmed as flashbacks in black and white. This gives them a grainy effect, which adds to the grittiness and somehow illuminates Norton's character, Vinyard, even more.
I will mention one of the school teachers here as someone is bound to ask why I didn't mention it. Elliot Gould, as most of you will know as Monica and Ross Gellar's father from 'Friends', plays Murray, who is Danny Vinyard's ex-history teacher and also Mrs Vinyard's new lover.
Doris Vinyard, the mother is, incidentally, played by Beverly D'Angelo.
Edward Norton was nominated for an Academy award for 'Best Actor' in this movie.
I would recommend this movie to anyone who hasn't seen it and, periodically, I re-watch it myself. I still think it stands up today and for me it is one of the most important films made over the last twenty-five years.
Race will always be a hard subject to talk about, but what it all boils down to is that cultures and religions will always be different and people will have different tastes, but underneath that skin, which varies in colour, we are all flesh and blood and exactly the same inside. Our hearts all beat, our blood all flows through the same veins. It is just a shame that our brains don't think alike.
On the surface, American History X is a message to the masses. Dig deeper into the psyche of the main characters and realize how easily they were lead to their fates. The story's realism rests on gangs of bigots and prison life, although, I'm not too sure how quick it is to go from a permanently pissed racist to an aspiring role model.
A racist father leaves his mark of hatred on his son, Derek Vinyard. In turn Derek inspires (or more appropriately, forces) that hatred onto his younger brother Danny. Joining the local skinheads with the help of their leader, Cameron, the Vinyard brothers become popular among the likes. One night, some black men Derek had a previous altercation with; vandalize his car at his family's home. Danny informs him of their presence which leads Derek to violently kill two of them, all while Danny watches in horror. Arrested and sent to three years in prison, Danny initiates his spiral into Nazism.
A large portion of the film is told in flashbacks with Derek's narration. It may be safe to assume Derek is the center of attention, although Danny shares the spotlight with his own commentary. Danny's importance in the story is warranted; at times he's taken advantage of by his writers. His character can't act on his own without being used as a mouthpiece.
We quickly realize after Derek's return from prison that he may have changed in those three years. It isn't until the end of the film that we learn he wants his family, especially Danny, far away from the skinheads.
Again, the use of flashbacks helps explain what has happened to Derek. He returns to try and quell the current situation at home. Pulling Danny out of the skinhead gang and threatening Cameron now starts tensions between him and his former life. Then, finally, the film screams to us its message as the Vinyard brothers scrap their Nazi paraphernalia from their home.
American History X is a gritty reality and an earnest portrayal of a redeemed character. Its glossy finish can't help but feel like that linear heart wrenching script we've seen time and time again. It's pulled from the depths of mediocrity and recognized to be that unique and compelling drama with a great performance of Edward Norton and a taboo subject to boot.
This is a very moving movie focusing upon the terrible nature of the White hatred of Blacks, with neo-Nazis. The movie uses some very effective black and white footage of flashbacks to show the character development, and colour for current day. In the movie we get to learn how an innocent child through some actions can develop a hate for a race and how that can effect others around him. We also get to see how this can be challenged to make that very same person attempt to redeem himself.
Story (May contain spoilers)
The movie starts by introducing us to Derek, Edward Norton and Danny (Derek's younger brother), Edward Furlong. Derek is a clear neo-Nazi, typical stereotype, fully shaven head and swastika tattoos on his body. Unfortunately for 3 young black men they decide to go and try and steal Dereks' car. Derek goes out and kills them, and ends up in prison for 3 years.
Derek is a protégé of Cameron, a white power publicist. Derek is his tool to motivate other whites whom were getting beaten to make them part of a group, part of an army, to tackle on anyone not white.
During Dereks' time in prison he has learned....
Now Derek is out he is on a mission to break away from his old life and get his family out of this life style. He had a massive awakening while in prison, and actually starts to see Cameron for the man he is, and the hypocrisy behind the white supremacist.
Derek manages to break free from the group, now they all hate him, he explains his actions to his brother, and his brother seems to accept it, and agrees to stay away.
Will they truely be able to escape it?
Edward Furlong does an excellent role of a confused young boy, who is involved in the white supremacy movement, however he is not involved enough as he is a young boy, however if he continues down the path he could end up leading a life of hatred.
Edward Norton does an excellent job of demonstrating neo-Nazism and then turning his life around as he tries to get his family out of it all.
These are the main two actors that carry this story, they do an excellent powerful job at portraying people of pure hate, but with intelligence and reasoning that at the end of the day wins.
This movie is 1hour 58 mins of pure excellence. This shows a world we are in and how things can easily be twisted to turn against a particular race, it also shows that while it is propaganda, both sides of war seem to believe it and act to it to help self propagate it. It also shows that it is pure propaganda, used as an excuse for violence. There is a lot any individual can take from this movie, it certainly will make you think.
This movie is very powerful and effective and I would recommend everyone watches it once. To be honest it should have a lower certificate and be shown in year 11 classes in school (year 11 is 15/16), the only problem is some of the graphic scenes and messages that make it an 18.
Watch this movie, but be warned it is a heavy movie!
American History X. What to say? This film can only be described really as a complete assault on the senses. Horrifying images of racial violence, gang violence, and just extreme violence immediately spring to mind when I think back on my viewing of it. I feel compelled to write a review, because it was, for me, one of those rare films that really stay with you after you've watched it. I must have lain awake for nights on end just considering it, going back over it. It certainly gives you a lot of deep issues to consider - your views on the world; others views on the world, the small mindedness of some people...
The film centres around two brothers - Derek and Danny Vinyard, living Venice Beach, Los Angeles. The film focuses mainly around Derek (played by an absolutely superb Edward Norton) who has just been released from jail for the murder of two black men. Before he served his time, he was the leader of a neo-Nazi gang, but during his time in prison, he's had time to think and has decided it's not the path he wants to continue down with his life, and he doesn't want it for his brother either. Unfortunately Danny (Edward Furlong) idolises the pre-prison version of his brother, and doesn't want to give up the gang way of life. The film focuses around the struggle of the brothers to distance themselves from the gang.
It is shot in flashbacks, and a feature I really liked about the film is that these are shot in black and white - it easily distinguishes the point in time you're viewing and also creates some visually dramatic scenes (a harrowing scene midway through depicting Derek's gang rape in the prison showers springs to mind).
The film is very good at graphically displaying the attitudes of a small minded few, or not so few, as is shown. It is, as I say a true assault on the senses and it is very easy to see why it is an 18 - violence explodes left, right and centre and the director doesn't hold back in making it quite disturbing.
The finale and final scene of the film are excellent - I don't think I'll write about what happens here because it would ruin the ending, but rest assured, it is an ending very in keeping with the tone of the rest of the film - I don't think you'll be disappointed. Saddened maybe, but not disappointed.
I would not hesitate to rank this film in the top five best films I've ever seen - it might even make the top spot...
I watched this film after a couple of friends raved about it and forced the DVD on me and I'm so glad they did. It deserves every word of praise it gets and the performances (particularly by Edward Norton) are powerful and unforgettable.
The film revolves around two brothers, Derek Vinyard (Edward Norton) and his younger brother Danny (Edward Furlong). Derek becomes a white supremacist after his firefighter father is killed while fighting fire in a black area. He becomes one of the movements leaders but is sent to jail when he kills two black men trying to steal his truck. During his sentence, he changes his views on race and comes out a very different man. On his release, he discovers Danny is also moving into the white supremacist movement and is determined to prevent this.
The film switches between past and present, with flashback showing the backgrounds of the characters and what factors influenced their development. It uses a mix of colour and black and white to great effect, helping to create a compelling and powerful film.
The story is very clever but it is the amazing performances (particularly by an at-his-best Edward Norton) which really make the film. As a white supremacist, Derek is incredibly charismatic and you can see how his speeches could bring people in. He's not portrayed as an ignorant redneck but as an intelligent man who is raised in an atmosphere of underlying racism, and who turns to white supremacy out of anger at what is done to his father. Its not a film which shows either the white or black community as being better than the other. Instead, it shows a vicious cycle of hatred and violence fueling more attacks and animosity, with Danny's experiences in school mirroring the problems in the world outside.
One thing I found particularly clever was how much more powerful and charismatic Derek was as a neo-nazi, pre-prison than as a reformed man looking to get past racism. Its reinforces the feeling that its much easier to preach violence and hatred than to try and bring people together (I know that sounds cheesy but I don't know how else to put it!). The entire film, particularly the powerful ending, shows how racism develops and how hard but crucial it is to prevent it.
The only downside there is to the film is the violence. I'm very squeamish and there were a couple of scenes which I found really tough to watch (one in particular gave me nightmares - you can see it coming so my advice is, just fast forward that section!). However, the violence is in my view a necessary part of the film and part of what makes it work - don't let it stop you from watching the film.
Over the years I have often been disappointed by films and TV series which have received almost universal acclaim. I can remember being remarkably underwelmed by the likes of 'The Big Lebowski'. The Silence of the Lambs' and 'Crash'. I think the last of the trio is perhaps the most interesting comparison, as it, like 'American History X', focuses on racism in Los Angeles.
However in terms of comparing the impact which the two films had on me, there is absolutely no contest. My 'little' brother told me years ago that 'American History X' was one of the best films he had ever seen. Mindful of the possibility of being disappointed, and perhaps unprepared to face up to a film which was never going to be a bag of laughs, I have steered clear of it until today. I can now say that he, like so many others, were absolutely right to rate it so highly - it is a difficult watch, but it is utterly compelling and fantastically acted.
The story is a simple one - intelligent white boy comes under the influence of a manipulative older white supremacist, and goes off the rails, leading to a crime which ends him up in jail. His younger brother inherits the mantle, but after doing his time, older brother comes out determined to start afresh and not allow his kid brother to go any further down the path which he trod with such ultimately disastrous consequences.
Through the skilful use of colour and black and white filming, we are repeatedly transported from the past to the present, but not so much that it becomes confusing. We find out how the older brother's views became increasingly extreme, and what changed his view of the world while he was doing time.
There are some very unpleasant scenes, and it certainly is not a film for the faint hearted. It is also a film which demands your attention - don't watch it late at night or while you are doing the ironing! Edward Norton as older brother Derek and Edward Furlong as kid brother Daniel are simply outstanding, how on earth Norton did not get an Oscar for his performance is quite beyond me. There really is nothing about this film which suggests that it deserves anything other than its stellar reputation - indeed for me it deserves it a whole lot more than many equally well-received films over the past twenty years.
If there is any film that i can safely say i can understand why it has the rating 18, not just in the horror genre, it definitely has to be this one! With a performance from Edward Norton that is perhaps on a par with that of Fight Club. But i will save that praise for another review.
The story follows the life of the 2 Vinyard brothers, Derek (Norton) and Danny, played by Edward Furlong. The younger brother, Furlong, is influenced highly by the beliefs of Derek. Who is highly ranked in a gang of Neo-Nazis. Derek has turned over a new leaf and tries to ensure that his younger brother does not follow the same destructive path that he had.
In the beginning we catch a glimpse of both of the brothers. Living their lives as they do. However after a series of flashback type imagery, we understand that Derek has caused some trouble recently with the local black community, and will shortly, inevitably receive some retribution. Danny is alerted by some noise outside of his home late at night. He tells Derek who, because of his beliefs launches a viscious gun attack on the people smashing his car. This precedes, one of the most disgusting and horrendous scenes of cinema that the world has ever seen. For everyone that has seen the film, they will know the phrase "curb stomp" catches the imagery perfectly. For those of you who don't know i will bfiefly explain/warn you of what happens. Norton drags one of the black men that he has been feuding with to the curb, makes him bite it, and stamps on the back of his head..... Though this scene is very gruesome, it is so dramatic, provoking and powerful that this overides the dreadful act that is commited.
The storyline is portrayed through a series of flashbacks. These are easy to differentiate between the rest of the film as they are done in black and white. Whereas current scenes are viewd in full colour.
The fact that these scenes are in black and white could illustrate that Derek has a little bit of a hazy memory of the events that played out, although they are shown in quite a lot of detail. This is a good feature of the film, as with some things it can become difficult to tell which scene is set at which time.
As well as this, in some films, you do not get to understand reasons why people are the way the are, and have the opinions that they do. However, American History X is an exception to this. One of the flashbacks shows us that when Derek is a child, his father, who is a fireman, is shot whilst he is on duty and doing his job. He is shot by a black gang member. This is obviously the spark that sets off the fire and fury in the heart of Norton's heart! I think that this is a good touch to the film because it brings in a level of understanding between the viewer and the character.
Throughout the film there are scenes of violence between white gang members and innocent members of the black community. These are very graphic, but are in-keeping with the type of film that it is. If the scenes weren't as graphic and depective as they are, then i do not think that it would have been so successful. It needs to show the violence, for that extra shock factor, and to ensure that each scene hits home hard. There is a strong moral undercurrent running through the film, each scene helps to engrain this into the viewer. Derek's life is used to illustrate to everyone that, although something is imprinted into you at a young age, it does not make it right. You should not try and exact revenge for something that was uncontrollable, and most of all, don't be racist. Love thy neighour. It is also shown in the fact that his younger brother is following in his footsteps, and he tries to alter this.
The ending of the story is very dramatic and shocking. As much as Derek tries to stop his younger brother gettin tangled up into the same life as he does it does not work. He gets shot by a black school member. This is very clever, as i think it acts as a punishment for what Derek has done in his life, he has lost the one person he loves most in the world. That is the biggest punishment for everyone.
I personally think that the violence in the film is a good point, but i can understand why some people would be disturbed by the severely racist scenes, language and in one instance song. So if you feel like you would e offended by any such thing, then i don't advise you watch it. Although i perceive it as gritty realism. Derek also has a variety of tattoos all over his body, as do other characters, that are clearly visible and offensive to various races of people. Mainly, symbols that are associated with the Nazis.
These are predominantly displayed in the "curb stomp" scene, and when he goes to jail. Where he befriends a group of men who believe in "White Supremacy". To ensure his safety in the prison. He later on finds out that his and their beliefs do not match. They have a deal with other prison members and deal drugs. But, these other members are not white and Derek confronts them. Only to get confronted himself in the showers. Once again, this is a very graphic scene, but embodies the film. You cannot trust anyone, and everybody's be;iefs are different. Derek realises that everything is not as simple as he thought and this could be the turning point in his life, where he decides that enough is enough.
Overall, it is a very real, graphic, violent and thought-provoking film that is not for the faint hearted. If you are not offended easily then i would advise watching it, however if you are then it certainly isn't the best film to watch, as anyone who has seen it will tell you!
Also posted on ciao under the same username.
American History X was written by David McKenna and released on 23rd October 1998, the film runs for 119 minutes and is of American crime and thriller genre. The film is in English and was directed by Tony Kaye. Produced by John Morrissey the film was completed within a budget of $20,000,000 taking a respectable gross revenue of $23,875,127.
Starring in American History X, an impressive cast of actors and actresses include: Edward Norton, Edward Furlong, Avery Brooks, Beverly D'Angelo, Stacy Keach, Elliott Gould, Fairuza Balk and Ethan Suplee.
The main two actors in the film are Edward Norton and Edward Furlong.
The first scene of the film depicts three years previously in the lives of the brothers Derek and Danny and dramatically starts off in black and white. I personally found that this was a great start to the film and seemed to make the opening scene so much more serious in nature. Also when I see a black and white scene, it automatically makes me think that the scene could be related to a flashback, and was performed very well. The scene shows Derek Vinyard, (a white supremacist played by Edward Norton) killing two black men that are trying to break into his car. Derek's brother Danny (Played by Edward Furlong) awakes in the middle of the night and witnesses the full traumatic scene of his brother killing two men.
In my opinion, this is an amazing opening scene, it is full of action and provides a shocking few moments for the viewer, this scene grabs your attention from the start and makes you want to keep on watching. From the beginning it shows how ruthless and cruel Derek can be and leaves us wondering for more. It also depicts how damaging witnessing something like this can be to a person and how severly it can leave a youth in mental anguish.
The film cuts at this and changes into colour to denote present day (3 years later) and shows Danny sitting outside the principals office as he has written a history paper favouring Adolf Hitler, regarding Mein Kampf. At this point Danny is introduced to his new history teacher Murray (Eliott Gould) who is familiar with the Vinyard background and he requests that he will be joining his class which the module will be American History X and he is required to write a paper about his brother or he will face expulsion from school.
Again this scene gives us an insight into the past lives of Danny and Derek and makes us realise how emotionally battered Danny has been by observing the every move of his brother Derek and inspiring to be just like him no matter what the cost. Danny and Derek are very close and the acting by Edward Furlong and Edward Norton is fantastic, they create a great blood brothers chemistry between them throughout the whole film and it shows that Danny idolises Derek so much that he is prepared to do anything to impress his older sibling. I think that with Danny having to write the essay it triggers emotions in him that he has never felt before as he has just been going along with his brother with out ever questioning the reason why. Danny has developed his beliefs from Derek without letting himself have an opinion and open mind, and for the first time Danny has been made aware of this, but will he change, revoke or go on as he has been all of his life, in the steps of his brother?
Throughout the film flashbacks from three years ago are shown to explain the Vinyard family history and explain how Derek and Danny became white supremacists.
A lot of the film is depicted through Danny's eyes, it shows flashbacks from Danny's memory of growing up and it helps the viewer to empathise with him slightly and feel slightly sorry for him and the opinion that he has formed whilst coming into adulthood. At this point in the film, we tend to begin to understand Danny slightly and his set of tragic circumstances and the viewer can begin to actually try and get into Danny's head, it makes the viewer feel that you just want to pick Danny up and take him home and look after him!
Not wanting to give too much of the story away, there are a few scenes in the movie that are extremely powerful and it is as simple as Derek just looking at Danny and we can see that Danny is completely under Derek's power and the influence that one look can have is truely amazing and fantastic acting.
The film American History X is a very touching film that leaves the audience speechless. The two main roles are played by Edward Furlong and Edward Norton and both actors fit into the roles perfectly and depict the strong bond that two brothers can have.
Derek is everything to Danny and among most a huge role model. The film shows us how damaging it can be to have a negative role model and how it was easy for Danny to believe everything that Derek did and said, and try and live his life exactly like Derek's.
The film provides a really good insight into American White Supremacist and it really made me think after watching this film. I really like Edward Norton and Edward Furlong as actors so initially this was one of the main factors for me picking this movie to watch.
A very powerful film, highly recommended 5/5.
American History X is a film I have been aware of for a long time yet never gotten around to watching. Way back when I was studying A-level History we did a module on Civil rights in America and this film was mentioned then as a great film to watch. Over the years I have always thought about giving it ago and just never gotten around to it. Since signing up for love film though I decided to put it on my list, another great way that love film has allowed me to see some films I would otherwise never have gotten to see.
American History X is the story of a young boy Danny whose brother Derek (played by Edward Norton) is a white fundamentalist who has been in prison for 3 years after killing two black men who tried to steal his car. Derek, covered in white power and swastika tattoos has some scarily strong racist views and it appears that these are starting to rub off on his younger brother Danny who witnessed the shootings and seems to idolise Derek.
The film begins 3 years after the shooting, in school where the black Principle Dr Sweeney is berating Danny on an essay he wrote heralding Hitler's book 'Mein Kampf' as an example of good civil rights. Worried that he will follow in the same track as his brother Dr Sweeney sets him a new assignment to write a new essay on his brother describing how he got to where he was today.
Although annoyed at having to write the essay, due in the next day, Danny is excited by the fact that today is also the day Derek is released from prison. However it seems obvious straight away that Derek has returned different, not only in that he has grown his hair out of the trademark 'Skinhead' that his gang all had, but that he doesn't want Danny mixing with any of his old friends or getting involved in any of their activity. He tries to encourage Danny to just work on the essay and not go to a big gang party that night telling him he will explain everything later.
Danny obviously sneaks to the party any way and Derek turns up to tell the main leader of the group that he has had enough and wants out.
I won't tell you anything about the ending, except to say that it was a shocker and very upsetting. In fact I found the whole film pretty upsetting.
What I loved most about the film was the clever use of flashbacks, always in black and white so you could distinguish between them and the current scenes, which came gradually throughout the film. This allows you to slowly build up an image of Derek and how he came to end up in prison. We learn how he fast became the leader of the white skinhead group and how he developed some seriously racist views. We obviously know that in the present he has changed his mind but its not until towards the end of the film when he confesses to Danny what happened to him in prison that we learn just what pushed him to re-evaluate his beliefs. Most of all it is highly believeable, at first I was thinking well how can he have so drastically changed his views. But you begin to realise that it was slowly dawning on him as he developed a friendship with a black prisoner and then finally as one horrific event pushed him over the edge.
This film is an absolutely fantastic portrayal of a serious civil rights issue in America and the character of Derek was so excellently acted by Edward Norton that you hated him and yet felt sympathy for him by the end. It raises a lot of interesting questions about civil rights and how people come to have the racist views that they do hold. I don't think anyone could watch the film and agree with the Skinhead group, in particular I found the use of Nazi symbols and the idolisation of Hitler very disturbing, yet you do find yourself being able to understand where Derek is coming from in terms of how he came to those beliefs. It is extremely sad when you see the flashback of when his father first planted the seeds of racism in his mind.
I really felt affection for Derek by the end particularly because he had stood up against the gang and was turning over a new leaf. The ending was so sad and shocking that it really upset me.
I really think this film is a must see for people interested in the history of civil rights, although I think it would appeal to a lot more people. Some of the scenes can be quite violent and disturbing, several times I had to actually look away from the screen however I didn't feel this was unnecessary violence, it was entirely in keeping with the story line and in many cases was needed. As I have already said the nazi symbols and posters did unsettle me and I was inwardly cheering in a scene towards the end when Derek starts pulling them down from his wall. I also found some of the scenes where Derek was preaching about the supremacy of whites quite disturbing to listen to. I definitely wouldn't recommend this to young or sensitive audiences.
The film was superbly shot and superbly acted by all involved and I am really glad I finally watched it. The film also carried a fantastically important message....... Hate is baggage. This is a real thought provoking film and I cannot say enough good things about it!
Edward Norton in American history X. He plays a self righteous, arrogant, racist and vulgar male who after serving time in prison for murdering 2 black men, realises what he has done and how he needs to correct the damage his actions have done to his family. Edward Norton plays the character very convincingly as he almost gets you to agree with him when he makes a speech involving his fathers death. Edward Furlong, who plays the younger brother really steals your heart you see how much his brother has ruined his perception of other races and how he looks up to every action and word of his brothers.
With a shocking ending this film had me gripped and curious all the way through.
The 18 rating is definitely well suited as the language is heavy and there are scenes of violence which are difficult to watch.
A brilliant performance from Edward Norton.
A review of just the film; American History X was released in 1999. The region 2 DVD can easily be purchased online for around £5.
Derek Vinyard is a young white American man, whose life veers off the rails, leading to his incarceration for racially aggravated murder. Determined to try and prevent Derek's younger brother Danny from treading the same path, a high school tutor decides to force Danny to have individual history tutorship. Danny's first assignment is to produce a paper simply titled American History X that documents exactly how his brother ended up in prison. As Danny considers each of the events taking place, he starts to realise that whilst history may be based on fact, there are lots of different ways to interpret it.
You can't make people like each other. You can't make people understand those who are different. All you can do is try as hard as you can to make people look at things in a different way; to at least try and comprehend that actually, we all have fears, regrets and anxiety. American History X is a simple tale that takes a family split apart by tragedy and shows how one man tries to make a simple difference. Ostensibly a story about hatred told through the eyes of a racist, American History X succeeds simply because the script doesn't preach. There are no real answers here except that hatred doesn't work. Everything else is left to the audience to decide.
The director, Tony Kaye, uses simple visuals to tell the story. Things that are happening 'now' are shown in colour, things that have already happened are in black and white. It's almost an unnecessary touch. This isn't a particularly complicated tale, but it's almost as though Kaye really wants to spell out all the very basic of details, allowing the audience to concentrate on deciphering the message at the heart of the film.
The film is dominated by the two incredible performances at its core. As the elder brother, Derek, Ed Norton is a revelation here and it remains a mystery to this day how he missed out on the Best Actor award at the 1999 Oscars. David's character is almost a man of two halves - one minute, a seething, terrifying mass of hatred and violence and the next, a soft, devoted, honourable family man, Derek McKenna's script skilfully plotting how a man went from to the other and then back to the other again. Most notable in a particularly violent kerbside assassination scene, Norton's Derek is equally terrifying and confused and much of the film's running is spent giving us an insight into his feelings and motives. McKenna's script never really makes a statement, Norton himself never really seems to swing completely one way or the other (although the very moving climax gives many one final indication of the true nature of the man.)
Alongside Ed Norton sits Edward Furlong, playing the younger, less fanatical but much more naïve younger brother Danny. Furlong is excellent here too, equally confused and directionless but still at that stage where he is young enough for hero worship, however misguided that might be. There is a genuine chemistry between the two actors here, with that host of similarities and differences that so often perpetuate from one brother to another. We never really believe, for example, that Danny is capable of his older brother's brutality but conversely the affection between Derek and his siblings is more sincere and more plausible.
This is not a easy film to watch. As equally uplifting as it is disturbing, the film is proliferated with very strong swearing, offensive racist dialogue and disturbing scenes of violence. The kerbside execution aside (which, once seen, is simply never forgotten) there's also a surprisingly graphic prison rape scene but what's most interesting is that on reflection, in either sequence, the key 'moments' take place off camera. Ironically, one of the more disturbing scenes probably takes place during a family meal, when Derek effectively loses the plot and demonstrates his psychotic capabilities to his horrified mother and sister and ecstatic weirdo girlfriend. For some reason, the audience can probably comprehend how Derek turned on the black community but to witness him turning on his family in this way is shocking in a way that the viewer simply never expects.
American History X is an inspiring, thought-provoking film that conveys a crucial (perhaps the most crucial) message to its audience but is certainly not without its flaws. People only ever really seem to find salvation in prison in movies. In real life, they simply re-offend. Here, we see Derek's beliefs shift dramatically for reasons that never really quite convince. Events in the prison may make him believe that everyone is the same, but this is largely on the basis that one man is as bad as another, regardless of the colour of his skin. It's hard to accept that this would completely transform somebody so driven by hate in such a way and simply cannot offset the root cause of all that hatred. For some, the argument that 'life is just too short' simply isn't enough to turn things around here.
The fact that the film refuses really to condemn anyone can also result in a rather apathetic reaction. In prison, Derek meets a young black prisoner who has been sentenced to six years for stealing a television. When questioned, we understand that the offence was actually assault but that the youth accidentally dropped the television on an arresting officer's foot, resulting in an assault charge. The prisoner's claims of innocence seem to be intended to suggest that the justice system treated him harshly because of his skin colour, seemingly suggesting that the point he stole the television in the first place becomes moot, when clearly it doesn't. This is just one simple example of a continual, unanswered struggle throughout the movie that can neither influence, nor decide, who is right and wrong.
But for me, this is pretty much the essence and the appeal of this movie. Kaye and McKenna make an assumption and it's the right one to make. They credit the audience with intelligence and self-awareness and then feed this with questions to be answered. This is the very definition of something that 'provokes thought' and this is almost certainly a film that can be discussed for hour upon hour. Sat within the top 40 films of all time on the Internet Movie Database this is definitely worthy of the ranking and doesn't pull any punches in its simple but disturbing narrative journey.
American History X probably had many of the white supremacists in America wondering what happend in the previous nine films after all these people are not exactly bright, rather like the BNP supporters in this country, ignorant backwards racists who want to blame others for their own failings.
American History X is a violent and quite bleak film but an entertaining one at that and one that I would recommend as being good viewing. The focus of the story is on the white suprmacist movement in the United States. Edward Norton is the star of the film as Derek Vinyard a white supremacist who is looking to get away from the life he has been leading and change direction. This is easier said than done and he is also trying to stop his impressionable younger brother from following in his foot steps and ending up in the gangs and in jail.
Edward Furlong plays his brother Danny and both Norton and Furlong turn in excellent performances. This is a violent film and Derek is quite happy dishing it out to anyone who does not fit his idea of racial purity. Some of the scenes are quite graphic and sometimes it is what you imagination sees rather than your eyes which can be the most upsetting.
To be honest this film is worth seeing just for the performance of Norton himself however it has a well crafted plot and a gritty realism to the film that I enjoyed. Good action drama and highly recommended by me.
When sitting down to watch this film I had no idea what to expect, I was told it was based on rival racist gangs. Which is basically what its about but I was not informed of the level of violence I was to expect. If you don't like violence or your squeamish this probably is not the best film for you. I personally enjoyed the film, I did need to look away a few times though, the plot was well written and the lead actors portrayed their characters very well.
American History X is about two brothers, the eldest being Derek Vinyard and the youngest is Danny Vinyard. Before his incarceration Derek is looking for retribution for the murder of his father. Eventually Derek becomes entwined in a Neo Nazi group which leads to brutal murders, attacks, his leadership and finally his arrest.
Dereks brother Danny is showing signs of trouble while his brother is in prison by making it apparent he believes in the same ideas as Derek. The head teacher decides a good way to deal with this is to get Danny to write an essay on his brother.
When Derek is released from prison after three years he returns home a changed man, prison life seems to have set Derek straight and he now realises its not a race which is bad news it's the individuals, including himself, who are in the wrong. He now realises how wrong his actions were and he is ashamed of who he was. What he finds when he gets home though is that his younger brother Danny is intending to follow his footsteps as he looked up to Derek and his Neo Nazi ideas. Danny can't understand why Derek has such a change of heart and feels he now owes it to his father to get revenge. Danny still has the pent up anger that Derek had before his prison spell. Derek finds he has a battle on his hands proving he has changed and to save his family from all the violence he started.
There are many flashbacks throughout this film with the violent acts committed by Derek, they show all the racist attacks this group try in order to gain the run of their own turf. The most memorable being the act that gets Derek put in prison (just a quick warning, if you are squeamish this scene will turn your stomach).
I would recommend this film it will keep you on the edge of your seat, mainly thinking what horrors are coming next.
Approx running time 114 mins.
Dvd extras, deleted scenes, theatrical trailer, cast and crew.
This film can be found on HMV at the reasonable price of £3.99
This review can also be found on ciao under the same name.
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