[box cover]

American History X

This powerful film about a group of California skinheads and their leader's desire to break from the fold isn't as much about racial relations in America as it is about how hatred is learned, and thus can be unlearned. Edward Norton stars in an impressive turn as Derek Vinyard, a young white supremacist who is arrested for murder and sent to prison for more than three years. Upon his release, he is warmly greeted by his compatriots, as well as his young brother Danny (Edward Furlong), a nascent skinhead himself. But while in prison, Derek inexplicably abandoned his supremacist convictions, and is faced with the task of telling his followers that he no longer wants to be a party to their struggle — in addition to convincing his younger brother that he must abandon their hollow cause. Norton is brilliant here, and while parts of American History X may appear didactic or preachy, his performance elevates what could have been a self-serving "message-movie" into a genuine story with a real protagonist. The fact that Derek uses many mainstream political arguments to justify his extremist creed of hatred and violence is especially disturbing. Derek's murder of a black thief — the crime that sent him to prison — contains an image so disturbing you will probably never forget it. Director Tony Kaye's color cinematography interspersed with black-and-white flashbacks creates wonderful context between Derek then and Derek now (even though Kaye later disowned the film altogether because of some post-production disputes). Also starring Beverly D'Angelo, Elliiot Gould, Avery Brooks, Fairuza Balk, and Stacy Keach. Good transfer, Dolby 5.1, deleted scenes, trailer, textual supplements.

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