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American History X

Threat advisory: High - High risk of entertaining activities

Movie propaganda

Derek Vinyard wasn't born a racist but he learnt quickly how to become one. Seeking retribution for his father's murder and burning for a way to vent his rage, Derek (Edward Norton) turned into the charismatic skinhead leader of a local White Power movement. From theft and assault, Derek's violent actions escalated into all-out war, culminating in the brutal murder of two teenagers. In his eyes, race-hate justice had been dealt. Now, after three years in prison, everyone awaits Derek's return; his gang; his violent girlfriend - and his greatest fan, his brother, Danny (Edward Furlong). But what they are about to encounter is a man who no longer views hatred as a badge of honour. Ashamed of his past, Derek is in a race to save Danny and his family from the violence he's brought down upon them.

Because of the profound power of the film, Amnesty International USA plans to use American History X as an educational tool, with an extensive screening programme at universities and AIUSA functions.

Target demographic movie keyword propaganda

  • Fim drama racism murder white supremacist parson skinhead crime

Cinematic intelligence sources

  • American History X official movie site

Intelligence analyst

Special Agent Matti

Theatrical report

Romper stomper goes to Hollywood.

Now, don't get me wrong, American History X is not yet another rip-off of a brilliant foreign (international) film: it is an original work that looks long, hard, and deep at the festering sore that is white supremacy.

Because it was made in Hollywood, this film lacks the dirty, hard-edged grittiness that makes Romper stomper a classic but the slickness of the production values is made up for by great directorial vision, greater performances and even greaterer story. Every actor is brilliantly cast. Edward Norton is so big and butch that I didn't recognise him until half way into the film, but that hyper-masculinity is wonderfully tempered by his character's intelligence and feeling; it's a very, very good performance. Edward Furlong as the younger brother displays the innocence, intensity and sensitivity that made him so good in Terminator 2, making it very hard not to watch him whenever he's on-screen.

The minor but important character of Lamont, a black inmate who works in the prison laundry with Derek, is played by stand-up comic Guy Torry who steals every scene he is in: there aren't many, but gee, is he good. Having seen the depth of Avery's talent (did you know that he is a tenured professor at the Mason Gross School of the Theatre Arts?) in Deep Space Nine, I was not surprised by the strength of his performance as the angry young man turned community leader.

American History X is violent, angry, taut and intense; it provokes a response in the viewer physically, mentally and emotionally. The minor flaws it suffers from are related to its place of production, not anything to do with the film itself. I recommend viewing.

Media intelligence (DVD)

  • Deleted scenes
  • Trailer: Theatrical
  • Biographies: cast and crew
  • Dolby Digital 5.1 surround
  • Dolby 2.0 surround
  • Subtitles: English

Security censorship classification

MA 15+ (Medium level violence, medium level coarse language, adult themes)

Surveillance time

119 minutes (1:59 hours)

Not for public release in Australia before date

VHS rental: 7 December 1999
DVD retail: Undated August 2000

Cinema surveillance images

American History X image
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