Wednesday, November 3, 2010

American History X

This is the 1000th post on this blog. I know no one cares but I think that's pretty crazy.

So American History X is not a terrible effective argument against racism. If that's its goal, then it failed. Still, I loved the movie itself, minus a couple tone deaf scenes, mostly because of Edward Norton's superb performance. He basically has to play three characters - a normal teenager who kowtows to his father's beliefs; a ripped, militant skinhead; and a reformed ex-con. I'm not sure how much time he had to transform himself physically so completely from phase 1 to phase 2, but it's pretty startling. And the several scenes that are just him talking or arguing with others for minutes on end are generally the best in the film. You feel his rage, his sorrow, his disappointment. He really did a great job sympathizing a character who's despicable for about half of the movie.

Otherwise, the film has a few strengths. It's a good looking movie, with the black and white/color disparity in the flashbacks and current events more effective than I would have guessed. And Norton's far from the only cast member who's not a slouch. I can't decide whether Edward Furlong is more annoying here as a teenager or in Terminator 2 as a kid, and his narration is especially irritating. But the various authority figures around Norton and Furlong are all generally very good, no matter what side they're on. And the film uses violence very well, highlighting the most important moments of the story in a way that makes the story a lot more intense. But yeah, the failure to actually make a convincing argument against all the racist rhetoric it spews throughout is something of a concern, and the unearned ending really doesn't have the emotional effect they wanted it to. I could easily see a white supremacist watching the film and being even more convinced of his beliefs despite its purported message. Still, as a movie, I liked it a lot.

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