A powerful and poignant film, American History X, starring Edward Norton and Edward Furlong, is an amazing film that explores many different parts of the the human existence. Writing and filming that is unsurpassed, Mr. Norton once again excels in a role that requires him to have different personality traits through out the it. Starring as Derek Vinyard, Mr. Norton starts out as a tattooed and musclebound, drug driven, hopeless mess of a man who is a top leader of a white supremacist group who believes that he and all those around him are simply than other parts of society simply because they are white.
The group disregards any simple rights of anyone that does not share simply their Caucasian skin color. The group's gang mentality when they go berserk simply due to being enraged that they are around a non-white and Mr. Norton's amazing way of portraying this is like none other. The viewer feels the rage that the character Derek feels as it comes so alive on the screen.
The film also delves a bit into Derek Vinyard's upbringing, by showing some occasional flashbacks to situations such as the dinner table and simple conversations with his father that allow the viewer to see that this is probably a case of nurture versus nature. He wasn't necessarily born with this drive, but it was instilled and honed simply by hearing the ramblings and passing remarks of a man that Derek wanted to please.
Also stellar in the cast is Edward Furlong who stars as Danny Vinyard, Derek's younger and very impressionable brother. Mr. Furlong's amazing ability to portray the younger Vinyard as a bit of a lost, wayward youth also seeking approval but of his older brother with a kind of hero-worship is outstanding. You can see in glimpses here and there that Danny is a bright soul and at the fork in the road in deciding and being led down two very separate paths. He is a smart scholarly type on the one hand with a real chance to make something of himself in the world, but the power he sees Derek having is much too strong of a draw and he begins to emulate the older brother and follow in his footsteps, even when Derek is sent to prison for a heinous crime and not around to be a role model anymore.
After Derek is sent to prison for the terrible crime he commits with no regard at all to those he has hurt, he starts to forage a friendship that surprises even him. By working alongside Lamont in the laundry, he starts to see a different side to those unlike himself in color and starts to see all the similarities in those like him in human needs and wants. Lamont unknowingly, simply by being Lamont, teaches things to Derek that no one else ever has. Acceptance and friendship based solely on the offerings of one human being to another in similar circumstances allow Derek to blossom into something no one ever saw coming. Edward Norton's craft shines in the way he can let go of one character's evil side and allow the better one to come in.
Once released, Derek has a lot of damage control to do where his brother is concerned, has to relearn a whole new way of living due to his new found belief and value system and the twists and turns the films takes at this point will leave the viewer truly feeling like they have watched a piece that has made a difference in their own life as well.
The climatic ending to the film is another fine reason why the viewer will be thinking of this film for days and years afterward. It is a cinematic masterpiece that should be viewed and appreciated by everyone. Psychology classes would benefit from studying this film, and even parents with children that are at the age to view such a sometimes violent film could open up many lines of discussion after seeing this together. Truly a work of art is writing, acting and directing, American History X is an magnificent film.
At a time when America is strongly focused on reducing prejudice, hate and bullying, MSNBC will shine a spotlight June 26 on a story of redemption. The network’s latest documentary “Erasing The Hate,” hosted by Lawrence O’Donnell, will tell the story of how Bryon Widner ended 16 years in a skinhead group where he was a heavy drinker and “pitbull” enforcer. Tattooed head-to-toe, Widner spent that time bullying and assaulting minorities. Then he became a husband and father in 2006 with his wife Julie, a fellow former skinhead who had also become disenchanted with the group’s hateful rhetoric.