“Has anything you’ve done made your life any better?”
Upon its initial release on DVD I watched American History X and it has been my intention ever since to watch it again. However, such was its impact, the need to has yet to become pressing, which is testament to its quality.
Edward Norton’s turn as Derek Vineyard, for which he received a well-deserved nomination for Best Actor (he lost out to Roberto Benigni for his performance in Life is Beautiful), is one of his greatest. His physical transformation more impressive than in The Incredible Hulk, which he was to star in 10 years later.
American History X is his tale. The enigmatic leader of a group in young white supremascists, Derek winds up in prison after committing one of the most brutal acts I’ve witnessed (despite being a lover of all things horror). After serving his sentence, we learn that Derek is keen for his younger brother Danny (Edward Furlong) not to follow in his footsteps.
Edward Furlong surpasses his performance in Terminator 2. His recent appearance in Darfur, also released as Attack on Darfur, (Uwe Boll’s only decent film) was an anomaly in an otherwise catalogue of errors after a well reported drug addled period, of which Night of the Demons was a particular low point. However, this is a poignant reminder of his talent.
“I didn’t get no answers ’cause I was asking the wrong questions. You have to ask the right questions.”
The film manages to instil a constant feeling of dread. Whilst hardhitting, it is also incredibly stylish and although the ‘issues’ may be oversimplified, it is by no means clichéd.
It marked a creative high point for Director Tony Kaye (Detachment) and writer David McKenna (Blow, Bully). The making of American History X became somewhat of a cinematic legend: Kaye was “locked out” of the editing process by producers after he recut the film, of which Norton them produced a third edit, accumulating in Kaye attempting to change his own directing credit to Humpty Dumpty.
The ending soliloquy, however, which I won’t reproduce for fear of spoiling, is what’s truly unforgettable; it invokes a powerful emotional response. And it has undoubtedly inspired countless films since, including City of God. It is an incredible ending to a truly wonderful film, although I’ll temper this with my affinity for nihilism (for another great example see The Mist directed by Frank Darabont, The Shawshank Redemption, The Walking Dead).
This is a film I’d be happy to include on my ‘Greatest of all Time’ list.
American History X was re-released November 5th, 2012, the DVD version of which contains deleted scenes and a cinematic trailer.