American History X movie cast: Edward Norton, Edward Furlong, Fairuza Balk, Stacy Keach
American History X movie director: Tony Kaye
American History X movie rating: 4 stars
In this Hollywood Rewind section, we have been revisiting movies that are relevant to the audience even today. And perhaps Tony Kaye’s American History X is one of those films that will, unfortunately, ring true today.
The 1998 film starring Edward Norton in the lead had in its time created quite the wave for tackling the issue of race head-on. The movie had not just brushed the topic at surface level but had dealt with it by going inside the minds of a fictitious group of neo-nazis.
Edward Norton, who, despite being a credible actor, has always somehow come of as a frail, easily-shaken man in nearly all the characters that he has portrayed, has a dangerous aura about him in the first half of the movie. Norton plays a former neo-nazi, Derek Vinyard, who serves time in prison for manslaughter.
A muscular built, a sardonic smile playing on his lips coupled with strong hate speeches–Norton comes dreadfully alive as the man who has let his own intelligence be manipulated by those around him because at that time it seemed like an easy explanation to right the wrongs in his personal life.
There is one sequence in particular which is especially horrifying and it comes right at the beginning too. Derek kills a person of colour in the most gruesome fashion, all the while saying despicable words to him. But what’s perhaps more chilling about the scene is not the murder itself, but the fact that Norton’s character feels zero responsibility for his actions. Smiling like he had not just committed a crime, but instead broken some child’s toy by accident.
The narrative is non-linear and this particular storytelling device makes for a great watch as it ties in together the past and present of Norton’s character with his surroundings in a seamless manner.
Another performance that shines through is Edward Furlong’s Danny Vinyard. Innocent, gullible and sensitive, Furlong’s Danny is what an impressionable teenager looks like. A job well done. American History is one of those rare films where different elements of the movie come together to form a near-perfect whole. Strongly recommended.