Thursday, March 24, 2005

American History X Review



My brother has had this movie for a while but I had never bothered to watch it. Since I have had so much free time though I decided to check it out.

American History X stars Edward Norton as Derek Vinyard. Derek and his family live in the suburbs of Los Angeles. The typical American family. After Derek's father, a fire fighter, is killed by black gang memebers as he attempts to put out a fire in a crack house, Derek acquires a skewed view of America. He becomes a neo-nazi skin head. Derek becomes the family outcast and is eventually kicked out of the house by his mother. The night before he was to leave the house three black gang members attempt to steal his car. He proceeds to shoot and kill two of them, the third he brutally murders by crushing his skull against the curb. Derek is sentenced to 3 years for his crime.

While in jail, Derek's younger brother, played by Edward Furlong (the kid from Terminator 2), Danny follows in his brothers footsteps. Derek is a god to Danny and his friends. Danny and his friends join the gang that Derek helped create before he was sent up. The gang has grown in the three years Derek was incarcerated, and it provides protection for the white kids in the neighborhood.

The story revolves around the day Derek is released from prison. It seems 3 years in prison has changed Derek. He doesnt see the world the same as when he went in. This change does not go over well with the gang he left behind. Danny is deep into the rhetoric of the gang and Derek struggles to change his views about race.

The ending in this movie is pretty obvious from about halfway through, however knowing what was going to happen did not take away the affect the ending had on me. This was a great movie, that caused me to question alot of my own beliefs. This is the type of movie that comes along only once in a while. It has been on my mind all day.

Questions without answers are pretty useless so I would like to have an interaction with my readers. I would like the readers of this blog to go see the movie if you have not and tell me what you think. Preferably you would leave your thoughts in the comments section but you can also email me about what effect, if any, this movie had on you.

12 Comments:

Blogger Geekbird said...

I saw this movie for the first time about 6 or so years ago when I was still in high school. I loved it and now own the DVD. The best part of the film is how they show Derek's tunnel vision of society and racism. At first you kind of say, alright so his dad was killed by a black gang members and his car was about to get jacked by black gang members. You don't necessarily let that become an excuse but as a movie you kind of throw up your hands and say...ok, that's why he became a skinhead (the dad being murdered being the greater of the two incidents in his life, obviously). You even, in somewhat of a twisted way, feel a little sympathy for him because you see him on the tape of the news feeling distraught over his fathers death. The fact that he was a firefighter (a helper of the community) also puts in your mind that he must have been a great storybook white male. Then as the tunnel vision of the movies perception grows wider you see that it is not just these random incidents that make a person think the way he/she does. There are flashbacks of the father putting stereotypical thoughts of minorities in his sons head during a time when the son is very impressionable. You can see that Derek doesn't truly accept what his father is saying yet listens to him because he does look up to him. So it basically shows that it takes a lifetime of creating a perception about society and people based on association and specific incidents. As more is revealed in the movie, more is revealed towards the real perception of life and people to Derek. There is the obvious struggle now with his brother Danny going down the same path. Perception and thoughts are cemented at a young age, and it was true for both characters. Derek tries to have the cement that is Danny harden towards the views that he sees now but sees that he is already hardening towards his past incorrect views. Great film.


Sidenote: The worst part of the film is when Derek is playing a pick up game of basketball to kick off the black players. He dunks as a sort of climax to the game, but was so utterly ridiculous that I fast forward that scene every time I rewatch the movie.

1:27 AM  
Blogger soundboyz said...

I too, saw this movie a few years ago. Being one that does not really watch that many movies, I did enjoy this one.It had an interesting storyline that kept you involved and interested.The one thing I can still remember from that entire movie was that black dude getting his skull crushed on the curb.That was very shocking and has a lasting effect on me. Still to this day , I don't stand next to the curb (JK). Anyway, I enjoyed the movie and I strongly recommend it to all.

10:15 AM  
Blogger Imara said...

I really enjoyed this movie. At times, it was a little hard to watch, but well worth the time spent. It's amazing how if you change the way you look at things, the things you see change. Very powerfull movie. I give it two thumbs up!

11:52 AM  
Blogger soundboyz said...

>Very powerfull movie. I give it two thumbs up!

Which one are you Imara, Ebert or Roeper?

12:25 PM  
Blogger macq said...

The most interesting part of the movie in my opinion is when his mom brings her jewish boyfriend to dinner and they have that discussion about race. Derek was so convincing in conveying his ideology that i started seeing some of his points.

Being a young black male, it made me start to question some of my beliefs about race in America.

The one problem I did have with this movie is that it never really refutes what Derek believed in the beginning. Ok we see that he was a changed man at the end, but besides the fact that he got to know a black guy, we never see why. How and why does he feel different about the plight of minorities in an oppresive by design society in America.

Also that gang rape scene was really hard for me to watch, I turned my head at least twice during that scene

12:49 PM  
Blogger Geekbird said...

You know what, that's a good point. I remember talking to a girl who was about 4 years younger then me, about this movie. I got out of this movie what I felt the director and writer obviously wanted to portray. I already had a viewpoint going in and watching the movie. The girl I just mentioned above already had views from family, friends, etc. about minorities in general (she's korean). What she got out of it was all of Derek's old perceptions, almost confirming the negative stereotypes she was raised with. Obviously, people who are more aware of the real underlying problems within society and racial issues will see where the movie is going. Those who are not may only see the movie as something to reaffirm their stereotypes.

It was a heated discussion I had with her and after about a 30 minute discussion she was starting to see things differently. She was probably only 16 or so at the time so she was very impressionable.

basically, I dont know waht the hell i'm talking about

1:17 PM  
Blogger soundboyz said...

>She was probably only 16 or so at the time so she was very impressionable.


Really.......How impressionable Geekbird?

1:39 PM  
Blogger Imara said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

2:32 PM  
Blogger Imara said...

>Which one are you Imara, Ebert or Roeper?

Soundboyz, I'm which ever one is better looking and the smartest. LOL!! Wait... aren't they both really old white guys? In that case, I'm neither one!

2:35 PM  
Blogger flyno20 said...

Sorry macq, i haven't seen the movie yet, so i don't wanna read your review.

and where is djxplicit?

4:59 PM  
Blogger Erik Grow said...

Hm, I've heard a lot about this movie too. In my previous career, right after grad school I worked in a juvenile jail here in northern Virginia, outside of DC. I worked there for a year and a half, and I learned a great deal about how much different a childhood can be from my own. I could also have counted the black people I ever really knew on one hand until working there, having just moved from upstate New York, so it was quite a learning experience (both detainees and staff members). I worked with countless kids with no father, many with neither parent, no money, no prospects, a gang, and a substance abuse problem. I don't think that I had any pre-conceived notions about race going into it. I think it was more about poverty and choices than anything. Breaking vicious cycles, and how difficult it is, kind of like in this movie.

9:17 PM  
Blogger flyno20 said...

Okay, i finally saw this film.

I didn't find it so predictable, I thought that Norton would have been killed by the skinheads.

It is a well written movie, but Norton turns it into a great movie with his acting.

>The one problem I did have with this movie is that it never really refutes what Derek believed in the beginning

I think it did. First, he met a really nice black person (who even helped save his life) which he didn't think existed. He also saw his fellow neo-nazis not acting the way they should, which hurt his own beliefs as well

12:17 AM  

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