American History X

When his white-supremacist brother (Edward Norton) is released from prison, Danny (Edward Furlong), another Venice Beach skinhead, is assigned to write a paper about the circumstances that led to his incarceration. Though this 1998 movie clearly takes on more than it can handletrying to merge the classical narrative elements of 40s film noir and 50s social-problem films with the rougher and more improvisational shooting methods of 60s and post-60s filmmakingthat’s vastly preferable to the agendas of most other commercial films these days, which take on too little. The movie can’t explain as much as it wants to about what makes (and unmakes) a skinhead, but it carries us a fair distance. English advertising tyro Tony Kaye directed a screenplay by David McKenna and also served as cinematographer. The performances of Norton and Furlong are wonderful, and others in the cast, including Stacy Keach and Ethan Suplee, are equally fine. With Fairuza Balk, Jennifer Lien, Elliott Gould, William Russ, and Beverly D’Angelo. (JR)

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