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USA 1998
Directed by
Tony Kaye
117 minutes
Rated MA

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3.5 stars

American History X

Although somewhat weakened by its conformity to the neat and tidy conventions of American narrative cinema, there is enough sincerity in Tony Kaye’s well-crafted feature debut to make it worth watching (Kaye publicly denounced the way New Line Cinema edited the film so presumably he had a quite different version in mind). Much of this stems from Edward Norton’s lead performance as Derek Vinyard,a Neo-Nazi skinhead who subscribes to the full complement of white supremacist rhetoric and, most importantly, is ready to walk the talk, unlike his puppet-master Cameron (Stacey Keach) who hides behind his henchmen. The story, as told by Derek's younger brother, Danny (Edward Furlong), who idolizes Derek, is about the real consequences of hate-mongering, consequences that are reaped even when Derek wises up to the folly of his ways after a stint in the can.

Furlong is empathetic as the second principal character and sometime-narrator but Elliott Gould and Beverley D’Angelo, whose relationship in the film looks like a socially improbable contrivance, add nothing of significance to the mix whilst the rest of the cast are thinly sketched types. Kaye, who also functioned as cinematographer and whose previous work was largely in TV commercials is a assured director although the subject matter is not one that benefits from the amount of visual polish it gets here.




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