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American History X (1998)

R   |    |  Drama


American History X (1998) Poster

A former neo-nazi skinhead tries to prevent his younger brother from going down the same wrong path that he did.

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8.5/10
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  • Fairuza Balk and Edward Norton in American History X (1998)
  • Edward Furlong and Edward Norton in American History X (1998)
  • Fairuza Balk and Edward Furlong in American History X (1998)
  • Edward Furlong and Edward Norton in American History X (1998)
  • Edward Furlong and Ethan Suplee in American History X (1998)

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1 February 2009 | alexkolokotronis
10
| 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.

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Did You Know?

Trivia

Edward Norton was said to have re-edited the film to lengthen his screen time. Director Tony Kaye then attempted to get his own name removed from the credits but violated a Directors' Guild of America rule that states that directors that use pseudonyms (such as "Alan Smithee") must not talk about why they had their name removed - which Tony Kaye had done in ads in Variety. According to Entertainment Weekly, he then wanted his credit to read "Humpty Dumpty". Eventually, Kaye sued the DGA and New Line Cinema for $200 million ($275 according to the book Cinematic Century) stating that the DGA rule violated his first amendment rights.


Quotes

Lamont: 'Sup, man? You getting outta here? Well, c'mon man! What the fuck you waiting on?
Derek Vinyard: Yeah, you know, I got this funny feeling.
Lamont: Oh yeah? What's that?
Derek Vinyard: I'm thinking the only reason I'm getting outta here in one piece is you.
Lamont: C'mon man! Get the fuck outta ...


Goofs

When Derek and Murray are arguing at the dinner table, Stacy's hand is on the table. As the camera cuts back and forth from other characters back to Derek, her arms are folded.


Alternate Versions

The version released with the certificate 'A' (Certificate #CFL/3/81/1999-MUM) in the city of Mumbai, India, the following was deleted:

  • During the sex scene between Derek and Stacey, Stacy's bare breasts were deleted.
  • Every instance of the word 'Motherfucker' was deleted.
  • The closeup of Derek forcing Lawrence to put his mouth on the curb was cut.
  • The nudity was cut and 50% of the rape of Derek was cut.


Soundtracks

Battle Hymn of the Republic
(circa 1856) (uncredited)
Music by
William Steffe
Lyrics by Julia Ward Howe (1862)
Sung a cappella by Ethan Suplee with modified lyrics

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