- User Rating: Excellent
Pros:positive and powerful message, good performances
Cons:overly extreme in questionable content, poor DVD offerings
The Bottom Line: An excellent movie about racism but not a family-friendly delivery.
Plot Details: This opinion reveals minor details about the movie's plot.
I can’t not recommend American History X, but I must raise some flags at the same time. On the positive side there is a strong message of tearing down racism and hatred, but at the same time it’s overly extreme.
Derek has been sent to prison. In a fit of prejudice-fueled rage he killed a black man, but the circumstances keep him from going away for long. He comes back to a younger brother as full of hatred as he once was, but Derek himself is a changed man. What happened in prison to so completely change his views? The history unfolds alongside the desperate attempts Derek makes to keep his brother from following that same road to prison and doom.
Something in the world that bugs and worries me is the attitude that racism and discrimination can only be white folks against black folks. Hear me now and believe me later, racial bigotry comes in all skin tones, and I've seen despicable acts of discrimination from black and white alike. In fact, I myself was very nearly caught up in a racially motivated attack based on a lie someone told about a friend of mine with the specific intention of inciting the anger of several hot-headed black high school football players who taunted me when they couldn't get to my friend. So one thing I really like about this movie is that it looks at racism from all angles. Its focus is the life of a white supremacist, but it points out that racism goes both ways not letting anyone off the hook.
As far as the drama goes it’s intense and gripping. Ed Norton is a talented actor, and he delivers a performance worthy of praise. The acting in general is quite good which is important because this could have very easily become cheesily melodramatic. Perhaps this is why the director went so extreme with the shocking elements, which I'll detail shortly, but I don't think such was needed. Perhaps the people that enjoy those elements are the very ones he wanted to reach, but the message could have gotten to more people with a more family-friendly delivery.
There are some artistic elements in the directing that I really like. The color goes to black and white for the flashback scenes allowing not only a clear difference between past and present, but also symbolism of skin colors.
I hope the movie makes people think about little "innocent" comments they make based on a person's skin color and breaks viewers' hearts over the senselessness of racial violence. This can be a thought-provoking movie if you're willing to dwell on the themes beyond entertainment for a Friday night.
There is a good bit of violence. The worst of it is implied, but done in such a way that makes it graphic in the mind. The sex scenes are graphically acted. The rape scene is brutal: bloody and disturbing. There's a small amount of female nudity in one scene, and a quite a bit of male nudity in the rape scene. The language is very bad all the way through. It’s just an extreme movie in every aspect.
The DVD is not impressive. The case is the cheap cardboard variety (unless it's since been repackaged - some movies have some haven't). The audio & video quality is pretty good: 5.1 surround sound and widescreen presentation.
There are 3 deleted scenes, but they’re not anything you HAVE to see. There are several cast & crew bios that are well written and a trailer.
The movie's certainly worth seeing at least once, but because of its extreme content I wouldn't recommend it to younger audiences which is a shame because the message is good. With there being so little to offer on the DVD a rental will suffice for most viewers. I feel strongly enough about the message to give it 4* - not a must own, but definitely a must see. If not for the extreme questionable content and shortcomings of the DVD it might have actually gotten a 5 out of me even without Kung Fu and aliens.
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Viewing Format: DVD
Video Occasion: Fit for Friday Evening
Suitability For Children: Not suitable for Children of any age