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American History X
Crime, Drama
IMDB rating:
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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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.
Despite the glaring flaws, American History X still retains its raw power
Watching American History X again 19 years after its release, the sight of Edward Norton's enigmatic frame captured in stark black- and- white quickly reminded me of just why I loved the film so much, and why it was one of the first DVDs I purchased when the transition from VHS was starting to take hold. I was 13 when I first saw the film in 1998, and now I'm 32 with more life experience and many, many more movies under my belt, the cracks and problems with Tony Kaye's tale of brotherly love and neo-Nazism also became apparent. It was something I could never quite put my finger on as a youngster, but the film's main issue is with trying to resolve a lifetime of hate and dysfunction in a single night, and by setting itself such time constraints, over-simplifies an incredibly complex and sensitive subject, although its heart is certainly in the right place.

American History X tells the story of two brothers; Derek (Norton), a charismatic and hardened skin-head freshly released from prison following a brutal double-murder, and Danny (Edward Furlong), an intelligent kid following in the doomed footsteps of the older sibling he admires so much. Danny has just written a paper on Adolf Hitler, glorifying the fascist leader as a civil rights hero. His (black) schoolteacher Dr. Sweeney (Avery Brooks) is outraged, but sets Danny the task of penning a paper on his brother, who had walked free that very morning. Hurrying home to reunite with his hero, Danny finds his brother a changed man. Derek has grown his hair, and no longer proudly displays the swastika tattooed on his torso. Something happened in prison that allowed Derek to let go of his misguided hate, and sets about ensuring that Danny doesn't follow the same path by confronting hate teacher and former ally Cameron (Stacy Keach).

This impeccably-performed and suitably rough-around-the-edges movie is far more successful with depicting Derek's rise to legend-status amongst his gang than it is with handling his drastic change of heart. Despite a rather silly basketball game, the bulk of the black-and- white flashbacks offer a keen and convincing insight into the mind of a highly-intelligent leader of men who has inherited prejudice and hate. When he enters prison following the shocking murder, Derek becomes torn between the hypocritical Aryan Brotherhood and his laundry-room work mate Lamont (Guy Torry). These moments, which are supposed to convince us that a man of Derek's single-mindedness could learn the error of his ways, are reduced to a handful of clumsily-written conversations and a particularly nasty rape. It ultimately fails to deliver on its initial promise, and whether this uneven narrative was the result of Norton being brought in to help with the final edit, causing Kaye to completely disown the film, I couldn't tell you. Despite the glaring flaws, American History X still retains its raw power, and Norton gives a performance of such staggering intensity that he will likely never best it.
I wsih the director didn't have to preach
This film began with such promise and toward center somehow lost its momentum and started to preach.

The film had potential to move and defend without attempting to show how wrong rascism is. I ofcoure feel its wrong, but hardly needed a film like this to show me.

The drama should just have unfolded without the Neo Nazi suddenly getting religion. Why not let the pieces fall where they will.

It could have been a strong and powerful film, but turned into just another we want to show you why and please don't do this.

It struck an almost condescending and proselytizing level. That why I gave it a six. Good, but hardly great.
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.
A true film making masterpiece.
A truly brilliant piece of film making, it is seen through the eyes of Danny who's brother, Derek got 3 years in prison for the murder of three black car jackers, Derek was a neo-Nazi skinhead, you see his time in prison in a series of flashback style shots, when Derek gets out of jail he is a changed man, he has left behind his racist past, but when he gets out of jail he finds that Danny has gone down the same evil, racist road that he had. It all happens over a 24 hour period as Derek tries desperately to save his brother from the same hate fuelled bigotry that consumed his life and got him jailed, you find that it was the friendship of a black inmate that made Derek change his views. He manages to change his brothers views but is it too late to protect Danny from his earlier mistakes? There are fantastic performances from both Norton and Furlong and I would find it almost impossible to not give this film 10 out of 10. The film is a compelling tribute to the unrelenting human spirit and its ability to overcome the intolerable. Like Danny did in the film i will end this review with a couple of quotes that i think fit well with this film: 'those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities', 'The world is a dangerous place, not because of those who do evil but because of those who look on and do nothing.' PROMOTE THE PEACE.
The Most Dangerous Person To Us Is Ourselves
American History X is a movie of its own. It has a little bit of everything in the way it touches you. This of course making it a very though provoking film. There isn't a genre you can place this film in because it is a not a crime story, action or even a simple drama instead it is a humanistic thriller. What it is about, is the battle over ourselves.

Who better than to display these wild but common complexities within people than Edward Norton. The range he shows here is astounding in only his fifth movie. Norton plays Derek Vinyard, a skin head that realizes through cruel yet necessary events in his life that he has gone down the wrong path. When he comes out of jail he attempts to stop his brother played Edward Furlong from going down the same road he had done. Through all his efforts though some things just prove to be inevitable. Avery Brooks also gives a great performance as Derek Vinyard's former teacher and now principal of his former school. His words may not be of the most inspiring but his actions and messages sent across are subtle yet strong and to the point.

Norton's performance though wasn't just about range but exploring different dimensions of life. Whether it proved to be psychological, social or even political on a certain level. It is a transforming performance revealing something mind blowing and eye opening. That we, and this includes anyone, can take a devastating turn in life no matter how intelligent we are or thoughtful. That the person that determines the outcome of your life is yourself whether it is good or bad. Norton's realizations aren't through teachings such as the ones that got him in jail but they are through the events in the time he spent in jail. He saw the truth for himself realizing then what is false and what is real.

The screenplay written by David McKenna is about as versatile as the performance Norton gives. Not only because of the Derek Vinyard character but because of the characters involved in his life. For example the root of his evil did not come from the murder of his father but rather his father himself. Through just a conversation at breakfast did his negative thoughts get really embedded eventually then leading to them dramatically taking over his mind and way of life. Only when his father got killed did these negative thoughts seem justified. The way this screenplay and direction was able to display this message in just a plethora of other underlying tones was spectacular.

What makes this movie great though is that you can truly find yourself in the messages delivered. As much as the main character might not seem relevant or connected to many people it his emotions and functioning of his mind that all of us are able to connect with. Yet what makes a movie great is not simply the message or messages sent across but how powerfully they are delivered. American History X delivers its multiple and intertwining messages about as powerfully as I've seen from a film.
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.
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.
Its amusing how one-dimensional this film is.
So Edward Norton is supposed to be a chameleon kind of actor, abode in the upper echelon of thespian professionalism with a distinctive character and absolutely a cut above the rest of the Hollywood illiterates. I've heard of this movie for so long but never intrigued by the signal-blazing poster and preaching-sound plot. But then I watched it by default and become so angry that compelled myself to rant out my rage. Its rub*ish, don't sully your eyes by it.

Honestly, every character is black and white. Long overdue prodigal son who used to be a loving a caring straight A student got lectured by his racist old man and SUDDENLY abandon all his DOUBLE PHD black teacher's words and starting to mutter extreme racist remarks on news report when his "honest hardworking" firefighter dad got shot and killed. Then unsurprisingly he was claimed to be brainwashed and apparently become the rabbis of his secret guild. And his uncontrollable ANGER(so symbolic and repetitively accentuated in the movie that you started doubting if the director thinks the audience are all eight year old) moved to his family, to defend his belief and stand out for his horrendous looking lady friend. he even stuffed a chunk of beef into his sister's mouth to shut her up. AND he killed the guys who tried to sneaked his car through the most thrilling way(I didn't know if you put mouth on curbs and kick it could kill a man). I'm flabbergasted how the storyline goes exactly as I predicted(I learned in primary school if you want to salute a kind of concept you first suppressed it and then through a heavenly epiphany you realized the folly of you and the mightiness of the concept, say the virtue of be punctual), I thought maybe deviated a little from the standard via but sadly, sadly it doesn't. the linchpin of the movie got his second life and love education behind bars by his fellow linen worker and a f*ck in the a*s.

Every character is either purely good or evil, all deprived of sanity and love and proper education. The fat bug killer is a racist for a reason, he simply is insolent and grumpy as hell about his life, he eats jelly beans with a bow; the mason-vision gangster are dramatized and demonized to present the very extremity of racism, which itself desensitize the audience and shift the concept of racism to terrorism. Apparently the director itself is undereducated but ridiculously bold to produce a film regarding racism without do much research about the itself. You'd startled by the level of superficiality and phoniness of the film. They even spent 3 mins on a black versus white basketball game.yeah.
I was reminded of the sheer power of this movie by watching it years later with my teenager.
I originally watched this movie so many years ago and was floored by it. I had forgotten how many emotions it wrangles out of you that you may not even ever suspect. It was an eye opening movie for me as a younger person and when I found out my 19 year old boy hadn't seen it, I pulled out my DVD of it and said, "That's what we're doing tonight." He at first had no interest in it after checking out the synopsis on the case and I almost had to force him to watch it with me. However, as I began to get immersed in this movie that I had forgotten its powers, it got quiet and I never heard another word from him. At the end of the movie, I was sniffling and I look over and he is sitting on the edge of the couch with tears, unspilled, but sitting in his eyes, mouth open, slack-jawed, and still staring at the blank screen. It was definitely a defining period in his young adulthood and a moment for me that helped define our relationship and that I'll always cherish. It's a classic that even now sometimes I talk to people who haven't seen it, and I recommend it. I'm glad I bought the DVD so long ago. It had the same reaction for me as it did the first time years ago.

I don't want to let out spoilers and it's so hard with this movie. So that's why I haven't gone into detail. But if you want to see real, emotional, life changing in certain situations, movies that make you question things and/or really force you to put yourself into someone else's shoes whether you want to or not, watch this movie.
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