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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
A Confused Film
A Finnish commentator compared this film to American prison drama OZ . I love OZ , it`s my all time favourite American show , it`s compelling and brilliantly acted , adjectives you could use to describe AMERICAN HISTORY X. However while the HBO show suffers from lapses in logic there`s enough going on in different sub plots for you not to notice these flaws but seeing similar flaws in this film you can`t help but notice them

First let me point out the good aspects . As said this movie contains great performances . In real life Ed Norton reminds me of the Kevin character from HARRY ENFIELD AND CHUMS with his floppy hairstyle and his back to front baseball cap but he always gives a good performance . In this movie he gives a GREAT performance as Derek the skin head from hell . Edward Furlong also gives a GREAT performance as Derek`s younger brother Danny . Norton earned an Oscar nod but strangely Furlong seemed to miss out , a pity . Tony Kaye also shows us he had great potential as a director , and it`s one helluva shame it`s unlikely we`ll be seeing either Furlong or Kaye as big Hollywood names

***** SPOILERS *****

But it`s the script that brings the film down , and in some places it`s quite woeful . Derek kills a couple of armed home boys who turn up at his house and he`s convicted of manslaughter . I know this is a plot device but couldn`t it have been better done ? Is it possible any jury would have convicted Derek for protecting his property from armed burglers . I guess all the jurors were called Goldberg and Rubinstein ? And I`ve got to agree with everyone who don`t buy the idea of Derek making friends with a black guy inside prison even after Derek gets raped by the skin head gang , oh and how many prisons in America have a mix of one third black , one third hispanic and one third Nazi/peckerwood ? It`s unrealistic the reasons why Derek stopped being a Nazi but it`s even more unrealistic why he became one in the first place - His Father used the " N " word a few times ! Of course the real reason might have been that his Father was murdered by a black gang but if that`s the case then why include the dinner scene ? It`s just confusing . There`s also another confused dinner scene where Derek`s mother invites a Jewish teacher around the family table . Would a Jew want to share a table with a couple of Nazi teenagers ?

But the major flaw is with the ending . AMERICAN HISTORY X is a very obvious redemption plot but Danny being murdered at the end doesn`t tie in with Derek`s redemption . If Derek remained a Nazi Danny would have died , if Derek had become a flower arranger with Greenpeace Danny would have died . No matter what Derek would have done Danny would still have been murdered . When writing a redemption plot it`s essential the ending of the movie ties in with the protagonist`s road to Damascus .

AMERICAN HISTORY X possibly does deserve to be in the IMDB top 250 movies but not at number 58 . It contains great performances but also some very poor scripting especially poor character motivation . If you want to see a better , more thought provoking film concerning race hate watch ROMPER STOMPER
2003-10-14
A fascinating look into the minds of Hollywood liberals,
American History X has a good message. Hate and racism is very bad. Unfortunately, so is the movie. I can't believe that this movie is considered such a masterpiece. I'm not even sure if this movie is serious or not. Is it a piece of liberal propaganda, or is it a satirical comedy made by a conservative who wanted to show us how many liberals see the world? Most likely it's propaganda...but sometimes it's hard to tell.

Because most of the time, it's not even about real racism. Except for some hateful comments, most of what Derek (and his father) says during the dinner table scenes isn't shocking at all. A black person could have said the exact same thing. The filmmakers took valid political positions and added a small pinch of Adolf.

According to American History X, you're racist if you're against affirmative action. The movie also seems to say that black people are animals. They're not responsible for their own actions. They commit acts like rioting and looting because they're scared of white people or angry because of the oppression.

The movie is mostly remembered for two things: the gay prison scene and the curb stomping. Everyone is talking about those two scenes when they bring up the movie. I almost think the filmmakers did it on purpose, they added shocking stuff so that people would talk about it. I remember that all the "cool" kids bragged about having seen the part where the nazi is violated in the shower.

There's also a completely pointless sex scene right before the curb stomping. I wonder why the director thought that was a good idea. But then I remember all of the other bizarre stuff in the movie.

Derek's transformation from nice young man to a neo-nazi is not convincing at all. "It's nagger bullshot, son!" "Gee, dad, I guess you're right! Racism is awesome!" And his transformation from a neo-nazi to Gandhi. "Haha, a funny magical negro! Who knew that black people had the ability to tell jokes? And he hates the KKK too, what are the odds? We have so much in common..!"

At the end of the movie, Derek's brother is shot to death by a black kid. It's just a pointless and depressing ending. It doesn't offer any hope at all.

It's sad that American History X is one of the most popular movies about racism. Imagine if they made a movie about real racism, without magical negroes, fake neo-Nazis, liberal propaganda and unnecessary graphic violence and sex. A movie that treated black people like humans.

The real Nazis here are the filmmakers. American History X is just a piece of propaganda made by a modern-day Goebbels, designed to make viewers think that conservatives are Nazis and that black people are helpless animals.
2017-05-09
Not a perfect film, but very good - Norton's performance is the highlight
"American History X" is a bold and disturbing movie about family, racism and our own self-perceptions. Its main character is Derek (Edward Norton), a neo-Nazi skinhead who is released from jail to find his younger brother (Edward Furlong) descending down the same corrupt path as he once walked.

In jail Derek learns a few things about life, and racism, or more appropriately, himself, and after becoming a free man again takes it upon himself to set his brother on the straight and narrow path.

"American History X" is not a pleasant motion picture. It begins in flashback, as Derek murders two black kids trying to break into his car. His brother, who idolizes Derek and later mimics his lifestyle, witnesses this event. It's a good message about negative influences, along with everything else.

Much has been made of the film's controversy and lawsuits. Director Tony Kaye disowned the film after Norton (allegedly) re-edited footage to give himself more screen time. Kaye tried to have his name changed on the film credits, but by this time he had already taken out a complaint in several magazines, which are against the rules of the Director's Guild. He was therefore denied the opportunity to credit the work as "directed by Humpty Dumpty." Then, musical band Anti-Hero complained to New Line Cinema (the film's international distributor) because one of the Nazi characters featured a tattoo of their band. They later wrote a song, called "NLC," bashing the company.

Despite the hard-edged controversy it's still a very good film, above all else extremely well-acted and featuring a gripping storyline – even if the direction isn't always up to par.

Edward Norton is simply superb in his role, showing extremely raw talent a mere two years after his film debut (in the Richard Gere thriller "A Primal Fear"). Norton careens between the role of a raging, vicious supremacist and a kindler, gentler version of the same character; a metamorphosis so convincing it's hard to believe it's just one actor.

The rest of the cast is good as well – Furlong gives the best performance of his career and Beverly D'Angelo and Stacy Keach have strong supporting roles. (D'Angelo in particular, who portrays a sleazy alcoholic – a stretch compared to her usual Normal Mom roles in the "Vacation" movies.) "American History X" isn't exactly rewarding of all the praise it has been lavished since its release (mainly from viewers rather than critics, who were less kind) – it isn't the best movie of its kind or even a flawless one. The black-and-white photography isn't on the same level, visually, as "Raging Bull" or "Schindler's List." The preaching is a bit heavy-handed at times.

But it still manages to convey an important lesson and boasts great acting complimented by an (overall) impressive, gut-wrenching screenplay. A must-see for all who can stomach its content.
2005-09-02
How to ruin a good movie
Why can't we have good things?

Easy: because every Hollywood movie MUST be, or become, preachy and cheesy at one point or another...

AHX had potential, and lots of it. Edward Norton once again delivers a great performance, and the whole cast is above average too.

The story, as it unfolds, is interesting and intriguing. Even the somewhat stereotyped "nazis" work quite well in the general flow of the movie. All in all the story holds up quite well until Derek comes home from jail.

There it is: our turning point: the movie quickly becomes painfully predictable: thanks to a rape in the showers, to a clichéd "friendly African-American inmate unjustly convicted" and to his old professor's (African-American himself too...) Derek suddenly sees the light and turns his back to his old friends and ideals.

Of course Derek's redemption has a huge influence on his younger brother Danny, but sadly his fate is written already...

Essentially American History X is a movie of two halves: the first part is enjoyable and outstanding, despite some predictable twists. The second part is preachy and even more predictable, so the redemption-through-death ending doesn't come as a surprise, but more like as a consequence.

To be honest, the whole movie is filled with clichés and stereotypes: Derek's dad is the typical narrow-minded WASP, the White Power guys are complete morons with zero depth (which might be realistic, but come on... show some imagination). The positive characters are African-American, and of course we can't go without the token Jewish character and the liberal one getting unfairly abused.

Even disregarding that aspect, Derek seems to joins and leaves the White Power crusade too abruptly and with little-to-none inner labour.

THAT, much more than the cheesy and predictable twists, is the most disappointing aspect of a movie which could and should have been more complex.

But, as said, the movie industry is manichean: things are either good or bad, black or white. Layers of grey aren't welcome.
2009-11-30
So much hate, so much anger
I wouldn't necessarily say this movie is bad, it's just insanely hard to watch. Remember how I said "American Gangster" was hard to watch for me because of my fear of needles in people's arms? I would rather watch an endless loop of that for the rest of my life than watch this again. I say again, this movie's not bad, it's just depressing. Everyone's so angry, so intolerant, so bigoted, so evil in this. Well, OK not everyone, Norton's character redeems himself, with a fantastic performance by the way. The mom and daughter are good people, the Principal's cool, Danny's English teacher is cool, the black guy that Norton bonds with in jail is funny, but the story isn't really about them. I felt nauseous after the first half of this movie, it was that hard to watch. 90% of the flashbacks in this are just people being racist, and violent, and crazy, and destructive, and I don't watch movies to see things like that, at least not at the rate this movie does it. And yes, I knew the kind of movie I was getting into. I had heard about the curbstomp, the swastikas, the racism, and all that. Hell, there's even a swastika on the poster for the movie. But I didn't expect it to be this full of hatred.

The story's about how a person can change overtime, and make-up for wrongs they've done in the past, but that doesn't change the fact that a lot of these characters made me sick to my stomach. I think had they toned it down, at least a little bit, it would've made the message come out better. But for me, the message was buried under a pile of hate, and racism, and swearing, and overall the movie made me feel miserable. I don't watch movies to feel this way, if I want to feel miserable I'll turn on the news and hear about more people getting killed, and riots happening, and terrorist attacks, and natural disasters, and tension between citizens and the police force. But why would I want to watch that? To be informed? To keep up to date with current events? I don't know if this is just my mindset after watching the movie, but I literally don't want to see the news ever again because all I see is violence and arguing and despair.

Also, what was with the ending of this? You had a good thing going with Danny learning to change his ways and maybe even redeem himself like his brother did, but then he dies, so it's like the whole movie was for nothing. Sure the audience got the message (if they could dig through all the hate), but Danny learned it only to get shot and killed, so what was the point? I'm sure it was to symbolize the endless cycle of violence and hatred that we as a society have to live with throughout our lives, but the rest of this movie is about as subtle as someone stomping you head into a curb till your brain pours out of your ears. I don't buy the idea that the rest of the movie is so "in-your-face" with how edgy it is, and then it secretly has a symbolic message at the end. If anything, I think they had the sad ending to get more Oscar nominations. Because if the past has taught me anything, it's that dramas with depressing endings get Oscar nominations 85% of the time.

I don't hate this movie, (if I go my whole life without hearing that word again, it won't be long enough) I just find it hard to watch and don't like the ending. If you want to have a redemption story, that's fine, if you want to have a movie about Nazis, that's fine, but at the end of the day I have to be able to sit down and not feel like I'm about to vomit because innocent people are getting assaulted, or killed, or ridiculed, or yelled at for 2 hours. If there's any lesson I learned from "American History X", it's that there has to be balance for movies like this to work.
2016-07-17
Not perfect but still very strong
Years have past since Danny saw his neo-nazi brother, kill several black males who were robbing his car. Since he has been in prison, Derek's legacy has grown among the white gangs of the area and Danny has followed in his brother's footsteps. When he writes a racist paper for school, his teacher makes his write a new paper, focusing on recent history – that of his brother and how he influenced him. Meanwhile Derek leaves prison a reformed man with only the desire to repair the damage he once did to his family with his beliefs and his hate.

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.

Overall this is a good film, which occasionally struggles when it forces the issue in the `present' scenes. However for the most part it is a powerful film which owes a lot to well captured themes and an excellent performance from Norton.
2003-11-08
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.
2006-06-14
One of the most over-rated movies of all-time.
This movie is supposed to be realistic, yet fails on a number of occasions, and that alone should be enough to bump it out of a top 250 list.

When Norton split from his gang in prison, the opposing gang would've at least beat him. In reality, his laundry room friend not only wouldn't have been able to help him, but he wouldn't have ever associated with Norton in the first place.

When Norton's ex-gang was chasing him and his brother, they would have inevitably caught up to them and at least beat them, yet a shoddy decision was made to make the crowd simply vanish at the flick of a frame. Very lame, and very obvious.

When a game of basketball is played between the skinheads and the blacks to stake claim over some territory, and the blacks lose, they simply walk away angrily as if something is really stopping them. Hokey.

The kid shoots the other kid in a school restroom because he blew smoke in his face. Not only does he decide to do this in the middle of a school day, in school, but he just stands there after he shoots him. I understand why, but again, very unrealistic.

There are all sorts of unrealisms like that throughout the movie. The list is quite long. Aside from that, Norton's acting was good, but most of the rest of the acting in the movie was done by actors who just couldn't handle it.

This movie has probably gotten such praise because of the subject matter, combined with: lots of drama and tragedy and hope this and reformation that, plus Edward Norton, who is himself a good actor, but still highly over-rated.

To sum this up, American History X was an oversimplification and consistently unrealistic.
2008-12-07
American (Heavy) History X
"American History X" is not a weak, fluffy, cutely wrapped after school special on racism, life in the 'hood, life in prison, and breaking the cycle. "American History X" is powerful and hits like an anvil. Edward Norton does an excellent job as Derek Vinyard, a venomous, hateful leader of a local gang of skinheads.

The movie takes a singular look at a young man who is entrenched in the White Supremist movement, then how he emerged from that life, and even how he started down that path to begin with. Of course most people don't like racist bigots and the movie shows the very ugly nature of the skinheads/Arian Brotherhood. But the movie also shows the interaction between the Whites and Blacks in the 'hoods of L.A. There was by no means an angelic depiction of the African-Americans in this film. A few of the blacks shown were thugs who in part helped shape the views that Derek and his brother Danny (Edward Furlong) held as White Supremists, but there were also a couple of key African-American characters that helped to reshape the views of Derek and Danny.

"American History X" made sure to do it right and make it true to life. The life Derek had before prison, the life inside of prison with the segregation and the gangs, and his life after prison as a changed man. This was no "Mississippi Burning" or "Rosewood" detailing events of the past, rather this was a movie showing the present, the good and bad in both parties, and the different ways people can be reformed.
2007-01-17
Born of Edward Norton
Some people say that "Fight Club" is the born of Edward Norton but this means that they haven't seen this movie yet. Every time you watch the movie you take the same taste as the first time maybe even better. The first scene starts with a man making love with his girlfriend that makes you shocked at the first minutes but then the story takes you to a terrible prison, neo-nazi people defending the racialism so hardly, a family so close to fall into pieces and so on. The players are chosen very carefully and I think Norton fits to his character very very much. The friendship between Derek and the laundry man Lamont is so similar to the one between Andy Dufresne and Ellis "Red" Redding in Shawshank Redemption movie. This is a movie that everyone must put in his archives.
2006-12-25
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