American History X (1998)

American History X (1998)

1998 | R | 119 Minutes

Drama

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...

Overall Rating

8 / 10
Verdict: Good

User Review

  • American History X details the viewpoints of Neo-Nazism. But at the centre of this group is a dysfunctional family where the youngest brother is vulnerable to the extreme methods. Not only that, but it shows how our role models can change and persuade our minds into thinking an entire different principle. There were two scenes that stood out to me, the first being the dinner table debate. Derek (Edward Norton) expresses his opinion on the constitution and argues his case against the foreign community taking everything away from America. This really conveys the white supremacy logic that Neo-Nazism provides. The second scene is where a younger Derek revises for an exam and his father interrupts him stating that he shouldn't follow everything that his black teacher is telling him. This shows how easily manipulated one can be when their role models express their opinion. It's powerful, smart writing and had me hooked completely. The film offers interesting views in which some are still a cause for arguments and discussions today, particularly in the UK (but obviously less extreme). The narrative shifts between the present where we follow Daniel (Edward Furlong) and how he slowly becomes a Neo-Nazi, to then embedding flashback scenes of Derek and how his violent methods caused him to go to prison. The violence symbolises hate crime and several scenes are hard to watch, particularly the infamous curb stomp...it's horrible. The direction from Tony Kaye was brilliant, I adored the technique where the characters talk directly to the camera, reminded me of the late Jonathan Demme's style. Edward Norton gives another tour de force performance, both in dialogue and his physical prowess. It was a rather commanding role. In an ideal world, I wished it was a happier ending...it literally made me shout "NOOOO!" at the TV. Also the propaganda and views of the Neo-Nazism are slightly forced at some points but nothing major. This is a symbolic and heavy film that rewards us with a clever narrative and fantastic performances.