American History X (1998)

(On VHS, December 1999) This film never flinches in its treatment of racism. But don’t think that this is another preachy morality tale where all sins are easily redeemed; American History X is far more unsettling. Perhaps its biggest strength is that it doesn’t represent racists as easily dismissed kooks; in the context of the film and the character’s situation, the racist arguments sort of make sense. That’s where the film’s true power lies: In depicting the slow slide, the external factors, the erosion of common sense that can lead anyone into the trap of racial hate. Fortunately, the film is carried through by Edward Norton, who turns in yet another great performance. Though not without flaws (the ending doesn’t make as much sense as it should. Norton’s character’s re-education is sketchy), this is -no mistake about it- an important work. Great, moving film.

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