Derek Vinyard (Edward Norton), a neo-Nazi skinhead and white supremacist recently released from three years in jail for shooting two black men who tried to steal his truck, tries to rid his younger brother, Danny, (Edward Furlong) of his racial prejudices.
Derek has undergone a radical transformation through his friendship with a black prison inmate and the moral clarity of solitude.
This tough, powerful and uncompromising cautionary tale from director Tony Kaye takes a brutal look at the depths of racial prejudice and the roots of violent hate crimes.
Told in colour with grainy black-and-white flashbacks showing how this son of a murdered firefighter became a hatemonger, Kaye’s cutting-edge treatise is a shock to the system filled with unforgettable moments, seriously handled issues and superb acting by Norton, who was deservedly Oscar-nominated.
One close-up of Norton – bare chest tattooed with a large swastika, eyes flashing contempt for the black man he has just kicked to a bloody pulp and for the cops who think they can contain his fury – is scarier than any fantasy Halloween fiend.
American History X is definitely not for the squeamish.
Dr Robert Sweeney