Edward Norton is Derek Vinyard, a man who once was a die hard skinhead. But, after serving three years in prison for a viscious murder, he is released with a new sense of life, and a quest to keep his brother, Daniel (Edward Furlong) from slipping into the same hate group that he once was a part of.
American History X is a riveting and straightforward tale about hardcore racism, and tries to show just how fanatically idiotic skinheads are. Not only is it a good movie, but it has an excellent cast, superb direction, and a fabulous script.
Edward Norton delivers an Oscar-caliber performance as the skinhead-turned-normal Derek Vinyard. He's creepy when he's shouting anti-race slogans and bearing no hair, and heartwarming once he gets out of prison. The transition from nasty to nice may be a little swift but the movie is believable, and Norton's performance carries the movie to new levels. Edward Furlong also does a superb job as the kid who is beginning to fall into the grasp of Norton's old skinhead buddies.
Tony Kaye is the director and takes no hesitations when presenting this controversial material. Both murder scenes are gruesomely vivid, even though one isn't shown directly. You hear it. As for the rest of the movie, it is a menagerie of current times and flashbacks. The flashbacks are shown in black and white and deal with Norton's conversion from hatred to acceptance, and are expertly done. The color sequences show more of Kaye's camerawork, and they are quite impressive.
The dialogue also lacks no boundaries, as it is both realistic and strong. David McKenna has written a great script.
American History X is a powerful movie that everyone should see, and is helped by the great performance of Edward Norton.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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