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American History X

Review Written by: Mitch Beaupre
Film: A+
Video/Audio/Extras: A+/A/D-

Directed by: Tony Kaye
Written by: David McKenna
Produced by: John Morissey
Starring: Edward Norton, Edward Furlong, Beverly D'Angelo, Avery Brooks, Jennifer Lien, Ethan Suplee, Stacky Keach
Buy it!, Buy it, rent it or skip it: Buy it

Editor's Note: The following review contains descriptions of scenes that may offend or disturb some people. Those with a big imagination and can easily picture things in their head should also be careful.

Tony Kaye's directorial debut has become one of the most influential films in the fight against racial discrimination. American History X depicts former neo-Nazi skinhead Derek Vinyard (Edward Norton) and his attempt to save his brother, Danny Vinyard (Edward Furlong) from going down the same dark path that Derek went down. Derek Vinyard used to be the charismatic leader of the group of white supremacists, also being a father figure for Danny, after their father was killed by a minority while attempting to put out a fire. After the slaughter of their father, Derek became a symbol of white power for all of the powerless whites who felt that they were being pushed aside for the well being and equality of minorities. Using this symbol of power, Derek brought together all of the neo-Nazis as they brutalized and massacred local minorities and these minorities' business'. The main example, being the local grocery store, formerly owned by a white, that was taken over by a Korean who hired thirty Koreans to help him. The brutality and enjoyment of the violent assault is simply gut-wrenching. As you watch three of the neo-Nazi skinheads pour milk and other liquids on a black cashier telling her that "maybe now she can get a white woman's job" and "that color looks good on her", you can't help but cringe. Derek becomes an idol for every skinhead, when he leads a basketball game that banishes the blacks from the skinheads turf.

The story then switches back to the opening scene. The blacks that were defeated in the basketball game come to get their revenge. They break into Derek's truck, that his father bought him, but Danny wakes up. Obviously Danny warns Derek and consequentially Derek shoots the blacks. He returns to the one that was only wounded and then comes the infamous curb stomping scene. Another cringing scene. Quite possibly the most brutal scene I have witnessed in cinema, Derek forces the black to place his mouth on the curb. Derek then stomps on the black's head, obviously snapping it in half. The sound of the man's jaw snapping and the sight of his head rolling to the side kept me up for nights. The scene is known across the cinema nation to be one of the most painful to watch. Derek gets caught in the act of this attack and is sent to prison. While in prison, though, he makes a stunning revelation that I will lead you, the readers to discover on your own. American History X is well regarded as one of the most brutal, painful films. The scene in the grocery store, the curb stomping scene and the infamous rape scene all combine to make American History X one of the most stomach turning, gut wrenching movies in cinema history.

Just like the last movie I reviewed, Requiem for a Dream, where American History X shines is in its outstanding performances. Edward Norton delivers one of the best performances to ever hit the big screen. How he lost the Best Leading Actor Oscar to Roberto Benigni in Vita bella, La (Life is Beautiful) is simply baffling. Of course Benigni delivered a great performance, but Norton outshone everyone that year. I can honestly say that his performance as Derek Vinyard is the second best that I have ever seen in cinema, falling only to Kevin Spacey in American Beauty. Also shining in American History X are Edward Furlong as Danny Vinyard and Beverly D'Angelo as Derek and Danny's mother, Doris Vinyard.

The cinematography of the film is also something to marvel at. The blend of color and black and white (the black and white represents events taking place in the past) is spectacular. This amazing blend, along with the flawlessness of the rest of the film's picture give the video an obvious A+. I'm giving the audio an A, due to the fact that it is great but not perfect.

The only flaw of this DVD are the special features or lack there of. Sure you can see the trailer, a few meaningless deleted scenes and cast and crew biographies, but that is it. I was hoping for some featurettes or some making of documentaries. The most shocking feature missing is interviews with the cast. I would have loved to have seen Edward Norton and Edward Furlong's views on playing these deeply confused and terribly disturbed characters. I would have loved to see the mental state of Norton as he acts out such scenes as the curb stomping or the rape scene. This DVD really disappointed me when it came to the special features. It probably recieves such a low rating due to the fact that I would have really loved to have seen those interviews. I guess after the dispute between Norton, Kaye and New Line Cinema, nobody really desired to be interviewed.

Overall American History X is an outstanding film. It is an amazing representation of racial disputes and discrimination. It really shows what can happen when racism is taken to the extreme. An amazing film with some not so amazing special features. The only reason why you might not want to buy the DVD is simply because of the low rewatch value. If you are a die hard Norton fan, as I am, you will want to watch this over and over again. However, the general public will most likely only desire to see this movie once. I say buy it, but most may just want to rent it.

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