American History X (1998)

Rating: B

Dir: Tony Kaye
Star: Edward Norton, Edward Furlong, Beverly D’Angelo, Avery Brooks

When reformed skinhead Norton gets out of jail, he finds kid brother Furlong heading down the same road. Can he demonstrate the error of his ways? It certainly makes for uncomfortable viewing, and neither does it ignore the seductive power of racist ideology. Kaye’s background as a commercials director is sometimes shriekingly obvious in the visual tricks, and Furlong’s character development is rather unconvincing.

Or perhaps it just seems so, in comparison to Norton, who delivers a blistering performance, completely unrecognisable from the Fight Club wimp, as every liberal’s worst nightmare, an intelligent Nazi, forcibly expressed in his encounter with Elliott Gould. It’s not exactly the kind of film you’ll pull down off the shelf for a bit of a laugh (one moment in particular will lurk darkly in a corner of my mind every time I see a road-kerb), yet equally, there’s no denying its worth, or the power on view, even if it poses more questions than it answers.