American History X Movie Review

It's a shame. Every year, I am disappointed with the Academy's pick for best picture of the year. Last year my favorite movie was LA Confidential. Did it win? No. Titanic won and that was a painful movie to sit through. This year, Saving Private Ryan will win all the gold undeserving. It was a terrific achievement in film, but American History X is the better movie.

Edward Furlong plays Danny Vineyard, a young skinhead who turns in a school paper on Mein Kampf. The principle (Avery Brooks) decides that a good lesson would be to have him write a paper on his older brother Derek (Edward Norton). The events in Derek's life are shown in black and white flashback, and we see how he is transformed from a straight A student to a murderer. Derek was sent to prison for killing two black kids who tried to steal his car. In prison he learns his lesson by making friends with a black inmate. He is raped and beaten because of the way he chose to live his life. When he gets out, he realizes that Danny is headed right where he was. He quits the skinhead gang called the D.O.C., headed by Cameron Alexander (Stacy Keach) and tries to reform his brother. The movie uses powerful methods of getting its point across. The camera work is excellent, the acting is brilliant, and everything meshes perfectly together to form what I think is the best movie this year.

Will American History X win an Oscar? Probably not. The director Tony Kaye has disowned the movie saying that Humpty Dumpty should be listed as director because of editing disputes. I don't know what Kaye has to complain about here. It's a gritty, heavy way of looking at a portion of today's society and how it reflects on others. How some are just followers and don't have the intelligence to recognize what's going on.

Edward Norton is brilliant as Derek because he becomes him. I first saw his talent in 1996's Primal Fear as an accused murderer. He was great again as Woody Harrelson's attorney in The People vs. Larry Flynt. Where does Norton go from here? I'm glad that he doesn't take that many roles, so when he's in a movie, you know it's going to be good.


American History X Rating

" Essential "

Rating: R, 1998


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