We have decided to start putting together regular reviews of some of cinema’s most unforgettable gems; movies that raise the bar, leaving us stunned and in awe of a true masterpiece. Today, we look back at 1998′s American History X, a disturbing, harrowing but ultimately brilliant non-linear portrayal of a neo-Nazi and his difficult journey through the complications of his misguided ideology.
Edward Norton is Derek Vinyard, a young man who excelled at school and was part of a contented suburban family until his fire fighting father dies whilst putting out a blaze in a predominantly black neighbourhood. The subtle seeds of racism had already been planted in young Derek’s mind by his late father, and the man’s untimely death served as a catalyst to his son’s simmering radical beliefs.
Derek moves on to become a leader for lost and troubled youths, going so far as to have a swastika tattooed on his chest, inciting race-related violence and vandalism and even making a bet with a group of young rival black youths that results in their `banishment’ from the basketball courts. Vinyard’s antagonistic behaviour results in the attempted armed theft of his car, which is noticed by Derek’s younger brother Danny (Edward Furlong, Terminator 2). Derek flips, kills the men, and receives a three year jail term for voluntary manslaughter.
Upon Derek’s release he is a changed man, having spent hard time in a prison where his racial prejudices and questionable moral values were truly put to the test. His time, though unpleasant, has had the necessary effect, but he comes out to find that Danny has grown older and is being lined up as a fitting replacement for Derek by twisted kingpin Cameron Alexander.