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American History X
Year:
1998
Country:
USA
Genre:
Crime, Drama
IMDB rating:
8.5
Director:
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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Reviews
Why can't we just stop hating each other?
This movie, got to me! I mean got under my skin got to me. It is so effective, the performances were just perfect. We have Edward Norton and Edward Furlong, two fine actors, they play two skin head Nazi racist brothers who are very violent. We start off at a very disturbing scene where we see how Edward Norton's character is put in jail for killing an African American very violently. When he comes back, he has just learned so much that no school, no white man could ever teach him: self respect, respect for others, respect for life, for his family, and knowing that "We can't live our lives p*ssed off". He is touched when he learns that his brother's teacher is asking him to write a paper about racism and how it effects today's society called "American History X". But when Eddie just gives a wrong look to the black kid in school, some things go terribly wrong.

First off, Ed Norton's old "friends" turn on him because he wishes not to be part of their very racist gang. Even his own brother who followed his footsteps hates him for turning on the gang. But Ed Norton takes Eddie and tells him his passionate and harrowing experience in prison. Eddie seems to start to see the light, but there is an extremely powerful ending that will make even the toughest guy shed a tear. I highly, very much highly, recommend this movie for everyone. Even for the kids, though you might want to turn them away for a few scenes, but that's how powerful this movie is. Trust me, this movie should not be missed and it sends a message.

10/10
2004-01-27
A series of cliches
I found it hard to enjoy this film due to the overuse of tacky advertising techniques like slow motion (that were too slow), black and white for the flashbacks and general obvious editing and camera work - like when he has been raped in the shower and is lying on the floor. We see a close up of his Nazi Swastika (as if to hammer home the obvious point). This film tries to be poetic but doesn't succeed. After leaving the cinema, I had forgotten everything. This film doesn't even get close to a film such as The Haine, which had a much stronger build up of characters and story, and leaves a significant impact on the viewer, who can identify with the characters. They seem real. In American History X even the characters seem like cliches picked out from other films.
1999-04-17
One of the most powerful movies I have ever seen.
I was expecting a kind of a moralistic movie with an overly present, almost preaching like message. The movie however turned out to be extremely powerful mainly due to the professionalism it was made with.

The movie its story is told 'beautifuly' in black & white and color. The quite original directing from Tony Kaye gives the movie a nice visual style and certain atmosphere. The story itself isn't that complicated or extremely original on its own and perhaps at most points even predictable but the way the story is told is phenomenal. This is not a movie with an happy ending or a movie that provides a solution to the racial discrimination problems. It shows what is NOT the solution to the problems and that everything that is occurring is like a vicious circle. The movie does not give a hopeful message but instead shows the dangers and pain you're causing to yourself and your close environment when you're thinking as a white supremacist.

As an anti Neo-Nazi movie this movie works really powerful. I think that its a really good and important thing that this movie is often shown in classrooms.

Edward Norton is truly fantastic in his role. He is very well believable as a Neo-Nazi as well as the reformed person he later turns into in the movie. It's almost like he's playing 2 different characters and he does that so extremely well. Also really good was Edward Furlong who we all long had not seen in a big production. Furlong and Norton are both acting well together in their scene's are highly believable as two brothers.

Also surprising good was the musical score by Anne Dudley who had already won an Oscar for "The Full Monty", the year before.

This was a movie that surprisingly impressed me. As a movie its extremely powerful and important.

10/10

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2005-07-19
A microcosm of racism prevalent everywhere in the USA
I watched this movie for the first time this year (2006) when a friend of mine lent me this,. I had heard about it and wondered but had no idea of what to expect. It is the most powerful movie I have ever seen in my forty nine years. I had recently returned from Los Angeles and the beach area after having experienced real life gangs there and was working on a novel following up on these experiences. I don't know if we can ever really solve the underlying racial attitudes that prevail in this country. I also saw much of the 'white backlash' recently when I was out there and saw all of the characters as believable (both white and black) portraying the different gangs and why they hate each other and are ready to take it to the death. I feel this movie will help young people try and realize the consequences of racial escalation. I unfortunately feel that this country will never solve this and understandably the movie leads us to believe this also. The best lesson is it takes the consequence of violence to either change or manipulate behavior. As shown, it can go from one extreme to the other without resolve. Be prepared with this movie as it leaves no judgement with either white nor black...
2006-07-22
One of the best films about racism
One of the reasons I like the film is that the racism isn't shoved down your throat. It's subtle and believable. There's no characters standing around screaming about "Those goddamn Mexicans, I don't want THEM changing my locks so THEY can rob the place with their little essays!", right in front of them.

The acting is great all around, and Edward Norton gives one of the best performances of all time. I can't believe he didn't win best actor. While I haven't seen Benji's performance, I doubt he was half as good as Norton. The film is also highly inspirational and moving.

How is it that this wasn't even nominated for best picture, while Crash was AND won? Crazy.

This should be shown in schools.
2007-07-16
Great until the end
This movie definitely deserves a spot in the top 250. I gave it an 8 out of ten, but I can easily see why other posters would give it a ten. I could not give this movie a ten because it is not one of those classics that I can watch over and over. The movie is a roller coaster ride that I felt should have ended on a high note. Sure, I am not a fan of the cliché "perfect Hollywood ending". However, this is one film that I felt should not have ended in the most depressing way imaginable.

I have read some comments on IMDb.com about the director having problems with the ending. He even went so far as trying to have his name taken off the credits and replaced with "Humpty Dumpty". I must say that I agree with him. Since I know that the younger brother will die in the end it prevents me from watching this movie very often as it is just too depressing. I think a good alternative ending would have Norton's character held back for the rest of his life by his record. He is way too intelligent to enjoy life while having to work as some sort of laborer for the rest of his life. The irony would have been "an eye for an eye" as he ruined lives by committing manslaughter and there is nothing worse for an extremely smart person to dig ditches for a living. This is something I can definitely relate to. However, his younger brother often supports him financially in the future as a payback for saving him from a life of "naziism". Norton's character is punished for his sins, yet there is some redemption for turning his back on the nazi's which regarded him as a hero.

That is how I would have ended the movie if I was given the script. This alternate ending would be far from your stock "Hollywood happy ending", without being so depressing.
2006-08-24
An amazing film
A good friend of mine suggested this film, and I really didnt know what to expect going in, but after this film was over, I sat in stunned silence. I knew that racism was horrible, but I found through this film that it does not come without a terrible price..the loss of love, friends, family...and the realization that everything that you believed to be true isnt always the way things are. Edward Norton's performance takes the viewer through this journey, and its not a pretty one. He goes from an bright young man, to a vengeful bigot, to a remorseful excon with a brothers life in jeopardy, and you feel as though you are looking in on someones life in the course of 2 hrs. All of the acting in this film is first rate, and the ending wasnt quite as predictable as others might have you believe...it is quite shocking, as is much of the film. It causes quite a debate on the way people view others whos skin color is not the same. As Dr. King said, judge me not on the color of my skin, but on the content of my character. I live with racism, because I am a black man living in America...it exists, but if we educate ourselves like the main character in AHX, it wont stay around for much longer. Hopefully it wont be too late, as it was for him. Peace and Love, JB33 Rating 5 stars
2000-04-02
Controversial, Violent, Explicit and Dark drama. But does it connect? And is it all intentional?
Original Score: 0.5/4 Movie: **1/2 (2.5/5) Quality: *1/2 (1.5/5)

Notice: This film is BANNED in Malaysia. I discovered a imported DVD copy in my school Library which is authorized by the government for educational purposes. That's how I came to view the film for myself. However… I can see why it is banned.

What's the film's purpose? To talk about all of that serious stuff? To talk about racism? To talk about violence? To talk about family? To talk about the relationship between two brothers (A short summary of the film will tell you about the brotherly relationship between the two main leading characters.)? Actually, the filmmakers's intentions are questionable. What's the purpose of the creation of this film? We cannot tell absolutely, except perhaps through interviews. However, when we want a film to talk about certain themes, it has to be done in a balanced way. Not way over the top (Which this film is.). Schindler's List (1995) is an example, but perhaps not American History X (1998). I watched quietly, without enjoying myself or feeling offended. Because the only reason that I wanted to examine the film, was to analyze it in detail. What I saw and thought about the film shall be described in detail in the paragraphs below.

The film's screenplay was by David McKenna, I wondered about plenty of the dialogue used in the film. All written by the film's script writer and said by the actors. A former Neo- Nazi Skinhead tries to prevent his brother from going down the same path as he did. I actually felt that many moments of the film rather strange, explicit, and finally, questioning it's intentions. Some feels out of place and unnecessary. It's got extreme language and disturbing violence, but does it connect? Look at all of that stuff, the opening sequence, the disturbing curb stomping scene, the things about racism, the plot and so on and so forth. What's with all the language? Certainly I braced and defended myself against all of that content, but as I said, it doesn't offend me (I mentally defended myself, but was never nervous.), neither does it let me enjoy myself. Don't learn any of that stuff, though, it's bad.

I braced myself for extreme explicit content, for I have read the content advisory and some of the plot long before my viewing of the film in the school library. The violence and language, it does tone down at times, especially at the "Family Moments". Sure, that's the good points, however there are many bad points as well. I DID see and hear a lot of profanity within the film,(First time I heard this much of the F word used in a movie) which can offend many people. I wasn't entirely because my mental defenses fended off every single insult. Unless utilized for the purpose of talking about themes, profanity cannot be used for it's potential of sparking controversy, and also offending people. 12 Years A Slave (2013) or To Kill A Mockingbird (1962), are two of the films that utilize dialogue to deliver powerful and impactful messages about serious issues and offering a look into them, at the same time expressing themes about them. Not American History X (1998) with all of it's seriously offensive profane words, used perhaps MOSTLY for entertainment purposes only. (Mostly doesn't mean none, but that little bit seems to be completely covered up by entertainment and profanity.) Over 200 uses of the F word? It's too much. Not just the F words, there's also other uses of racial slurs. Racism seems to be what the film is talking about, or so it seems. Racism of Blacks against white people? I dare not talk about racism, except that what Atticus Finch had said: "...all men created are equal.". No matter which side we are, respect other races, people of different skin colors from us. I'm not white, I'm Chinese. Meantime, I felt that the intention was more scaled towards entertainment rather than themes. Unlike 12 Years a Slave (2013) or To Kill a Mockingbird (1962).

Reminding myself that this is acting and filmmaking, I doubt that this could be great filmmaking, considering it's questionable intentions, it's writing, it's acting. How does it all add up? What does it all add up to? What's the purpose? Some of it seems to be there, but it feels like an illusion, and a real thing. I doubt that the intentions of the film is to depict racism, considering all of that swearing and stuff. It looks powerful, but it doesn't really work due to the offensive content and mixed (and questionable) intentions that the filmmakers have. Other people in our country wouldn't have the opportunity to view this film, and I think that the best thing is to keep away from it. If you would like to give it a go, don't forget this term: "Guilty Pleasure". Because I read up about the film (And the content advisory on IMDb), I knew what's in the film and I wasn't surprised nor offended. I defended myself, and while you shouldn't forget what I said above, I've basically could easily forget much of the film's sequences. (And it's offensive dialogue, almost none of which was memorable.) Those memories of horror and guilty enjoyment lost instantly like tears in the rain.

If it were made with good intentions and emptiness of profanity. It could have been a great film(Purposes of depictions, remember what I said earlier?). But the result feels messy, dark, but not entirely empty. It's mostly the language that's the offensive part, the rest is some of the disturbing violence. Still, there are other worse ones out there, but don't get me started about them for my country has very strict media censorship. Refer to the opening notice as to how I got to view this film for myself. What do you think? That's entirely up to you.
2016-03-25
Cultural Agitprop X
As a Jew, I must say this production is seemingly straight out of the Frankfurt School of thought and should be revealed as the subversive Jewish Agitprop X that it is.

Sadly, this film has shortcomings that range from the acting, to the direction, and even the post editing. But most importantly, the film utterly fails in its attempt to escape the infantile, pedestrian stereotypes that mire the picture in a laughably obvious attempt to drive an anti-white political narrative, not make an entertaining movie with any integrity whatsoever.

This film goes out of its way to make the "groundbreaking" assertion that neo Nazis are misguided. Thanks, Hollywood Jews; I was wondering about that! But it makes no attempt to honestly investigate the legitimate (yes, legitimate) reasons behind white pride movements in general and uses epithetic, out-of-place "dialogue" to tacitly delegitimize a father's attempts to explain to his son what is justifiably wrong with liberal fascists trying to issue reparations for past injustices.

The more prominent motifs in this film are clearly disturbing: 1. Blacks have no autonomy or agency and thusly cannot be held accountable for their overtly disproportional criminality. "They are merely products of social injustice and poverty." Real racism in action, my goy friends. 2. Black racism against whites should be accepted while only white racism, which we are led to believe is rampant "just under the surface", should be detested. 3. Whites should feel guilty for transgressions they did not personally commit because after all...white privilege, institutional racism, microaggressions, and other incredibly nebulous "sociological contrivances." 4. While all non-Caucasian groups that celebrate a racial identity are to be exalted, any pride among people of European descent is to be viewed with moral pessimism, abhorrent disgust and outright social rejection without the benefit of a civil discussion.

I'm not technically "white"; but I can appreciate the innumerable gifts Caucasians have given the world. It's too bad so many of my fellow Jews in the movie industry take every opportunity to slander the descendants (especially males) of a group who produced a country that provides blacks the most hospitable environment to make something of themselves...or be their own worst enemy. That's freedom and I love the right not only to succeed, but also to fail. Failures make us who we are- for better or worse. This film hopefully makes someone better as it failed both technically and morally.
2015-06-04
Edward Norton delivers a staggering performance as an extremely intelligent white supremacist who realizes the wrongness of his views and must then try to prevent his younger brother form going down the same
American History X is one of the most powerful movies released in years. Not since Schindler's List has the subject of racism been so potently presented. The use of black and white cinematography to portray painful flashbacks is amazing, and the settings, while not necessarily pretty, fit the story flawlessly.

Derek Vineyard's (Edward Norton) transition from a white supremacy leader's protege to a gang leader himself to a changed man is shown mainly through a series of flashbacks to the time before he was sent to prison. The character development and story are amazingly well done, and this is largely a factor of the high quality of the acting. Edward Norton especially, but also Edward Furlong, Beverly D'Angelo, and all of the rest of the cast down to Avery Brooks as Bob Sweeney, the African American high school teacher who comes up with the term American History X, and Stacy Keach as the wonderfully hateable Cameron Alexander. Keach, by the way, would have been the perfect choice to play Francis Dolarhyde in Manhunter, the film the precedes The Silence of the Lambs, but oh well.

Unfortunately, despite the fact that American History X is one of the best films in years, it is horribly underrated. Much like Norton's last film, Primal Fear, which was also a great movie, this movie did not get nearly the recognition that it deserves.
2000-08-28
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