Saturday, 10 November 2012

Movies That I Haven’t Seen But Should Have - Part 6: Neo-Nazi

There are a lot of movies I'm ashamed to admit I've never seen. But rather than pretend I've seen them or change the subject when they’re mentioned, I've decided to share them with you. These films that are cult classics or masterpieces that I have missed or avoided, I am sitting down to review. Today's film is rated at 35 on IMDb's top 250 and, somehow, a lot lower at 311 on Empire's Top 500. It contains one of the most famous scenes in film and deals with a sensitive subject: racial prejudice. This is American History X.

Derek Vinyard (Edward Norton) is a white supremacist, he dates a white supremacist  Stacey (Fairuza Balk), and his views have made his brother, Danny (Edward Furlong), a white supremacist. One night, his car is broken into by some black men and, after Danny raises the alarm, Derek bursts out of their house and kills two of the three men - one with the famous Curb Stomp scene. Arrested at the scene of the crime, he gets taken away to a predominantly black prison. Flash forward three years. Derek is released from prison and Danny is getting in trouble at school for writing a paper about 'Mein Kampf'. Despite Danny being on almost the same path that his older brother took only a few years before, the principal of the school, Dr Bob Sweeney (Avery Brooks), firmly states that he won't give up on this Vinyard. He becomes Danny's personal teacher of a new class, American History X, and tells him to write a paper on his brother's incarceration. Danny goes off instead with Derek's old friends, Seth (Ethan Suplee) and Cameron (Stacy Keach), to party and show their hatred for the minorities in their community. But Derek won't let his brother follow too closely in his own footsteps, even if it means leaving behind the world he once ruled.

'I hate black guys this much'

There are simply not enough words to describe Edward Norton in this film. From adolescent teenager, to violent gang leader, to reformed big brother, he can do it all. Not only can he perform all of these different aspects of one character, he performs them with such realism it becomes somewhat scary - especially before Derek is arrested. Despite being a skinny man, Norton's Derek is one of the most imposing men that cinema has ever offered. Even during his arrest, a slight smile will send unease through every viewer. And on top of this, the complete juxtaposition from his violent neo-nazi attitude to his caring big brother persona is so seamless and amazingly well acted. The role of Derek solidifies Norton's position as one of the most talented actors in Hollywood, only a year before Fight Club was released. The rest of the supporting cast are also brilliant. Of course, Edward Furlong was the driving force behind the whole movie. He did a superb job of showing the naivety and troubled nature of Danny, the two key aspects that lead to him following his brother, and later having trouble doing what anyone tells him. The deep conflict of a brainwashed youth, something that the film investigates intensely.

And the award for worst timed screencap goes to...

The contrast of the black and white film for the past and the colour for the future is simply a thing of genius. Who said symbolism was dead?  An incredibly written and edited piece of cinema - though who to thank for that is not quite clear. Director Tony Kaye edited it a few times before opting to having his name removed from the film and replaced with Humpty Dumpty (The Directors' Guild Of America refused to let him and so he sued them for $200m+). So whoever is to thank, they did a very good job with this film. A perfect mix of explicit and implicit material. The film shows that, despite the horrible ideology behind the gangs, they are still just people. The humanity that is shown in Derek is somewhat jarring in the mind because, as an audience, we expect to hate these characters and everything they stand for, but Derek shows love for his family and a longing to protect people. Much like the video of Hitler flirting Eva Braun, it makes the viewer uncomfortable to see someone so horrible being... well... human. A perfectly structured film.

A simply outstanding film. One that shows that Fight Club was not just a lucky break for Norton, he is just a brilliant actor. With such fantastic performances from the entire cast, it is hard to see anyone not thinking this film is a masterpiece of cinema. Watch it. Now.

Best Bit? Both the basket ball scene and the curb stomp scene are incredible. Surely will be remembered for decades to come.

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