American History X Film Critique
Following the cold blooded murder of his father, Dennis Vineyard – a fireman who is shot while putting out a fire at a crack house – Derek Vineyard comes filled with racial hatred and eventually becomes the second in command of the Venice Beach neo-Nazi gang, The Disciples of Christ. Under the guidance of Cameron Alexander (the leader of the D. O. C), Derek recruits others, mainly those who were victimized by people of ethnic minorities, to join their fellowship. At a basketball court in Venice Beach, members of the D. O. C. Including Derek challenge some Black youths to a game. The games stakes are for control of the beach. As the game progresses tensions arise between the two opposing teams, becoming physical at times, but conclude with victors being Derek and the D. O. C… Later that night, three of the blacks pull up outside Trek’s’ house in an attempt to steal his truck. Hearing the smashing of glass, Danny is awoken, and looks out the window seeing one of the blacks smashing the trucks window. He goes to Trek’s room, only to interrupt him and his girlfriend having sex.
Initially Derek is mad at his younger brothers interruption, but upon Danny informing him of the black guy breaking into his truck, a sudden but very apparent change is seen in Derek, grabbing a gun he goes downstairs to take care of the situation. Opening the front door he fires four shots hitting one of the youths point blank in the chest, killing him instantly. He fires an additional two shots at another, leaving him wounded on the front yard. A car is seen driving away and Derek proceeds to empty the clip at the car.
Returning now to the wounded man he picks him up and drags him over to the curb where he orders him to open his mouth and put it on the curb. With Danny yelling “No”, Derek delivers a viscous kick to the back of his head killing him instantly. Derek is convicted of voluntary manslaughter, and sentenced to three years in prison. Three years later Trek’s White Supremacist ideology is present in his brother. As the film begins, we see Dandy’s Principal telling Danny to write a report due the next day about his brother. The film is narrated by Danny as he writes his report.
It consists mainly of many flashbacks of Derek when he was second in command of the D. O. C and Dandy’s commentary on what he thought of his brother. Derek is no longer the White Supremacist he used to be, Derek instead tries to teach Danny that what he believes is wrong, attempting to undo the damage he had done to his brother previously. Themes Racism The struggle to change. Prejudice and the manipulation of others. “Hate is baggage” Violence / Scariness Violence is extreme and is focused upon in many instances as the movie unfolds.
By far the most graphic instant of violence is the confrontation that unfolds following the break in of Trek’s’ truck. “Curb stomping’ as it is known is a known form of murdering somebody, and has been reported by multiple police agencies throughout the U. S. A… Edward Norton delivers a powerful performance in making the audience feel his hate as he instructs the black man to open his mouth and put it on the curb. Danny screams “No” in a vain attempt to stop his brother, who with intense anger on his face delivers a downward stomp to the back of his head.
Another such instance of violence is seen at the beginning of the movie, and if noted carefully is the onset for the tragic conclusion of the movie. Three black youths are bullying a white kid in the bathroom of the High School; Danny emerges from the stall and a face to face confrontation between Danny and one of the black youths where Danny blows smoke into his face. Later in an apparent flashback (much of the flashbacks in the movie are limed in black and white) Derek is making a speech in front of many others which are apparently members of the D.
O. C. Derek is explaining to them about the infiltration of immigrants into the country and how it is destroying the ideals of the country. This particular scene shows how the leader of the D. O. C. Has brainwashed them into doing actions that would have never been conceived upon by any. A large party organized by the D. O. C is another, and Derek has gone to tell Cameron that he is through with the gang and that kind of life. And he also tells him that he needs to stay away from Danny, a infiltration ensues and Derek knocks Cameron unconscious.
As Derek is leaving the scene, the skinheads, realizing what he has done, turn on him. He is forced to flee. Later on Danny catches up with Derek. He explains what has caused him to renounce his “racist” views. He relates how his racial “rehabilitation” started in prison. Derek describes how he allied hemstitch the neo-Nazi prisoners but that this association soured. He became disillusioned because the apparent division along racial lines was more of a facade than reality.
He observed that inter-racial commerce was taking place teen the racial factions. This included a fellow neo-Nazi purchasing drugs from Hispanic prisoners only to sell them at profit to White prisoners. Upon seeing this Derek, in front of all the inmates turns in disgust at this, and with that so begins Trek’s’ disassociation with the neo Nazi movement. But it doesn’t come easy, while showering he is viciously raped and customized by members of the Aryan brotherhood inmates.
Crimes Voluntary Manslaughter, Murder, Rape, Hate Crimes, and Domestic Violence are the most obvious of the crimes that are committed in American History X. Although many will undoubtedly argue that the crime committed by Derek where he confronts the blacks attempting to steal his pickup – shooting and killing one and ‘curb stomping’ another – is murder. However, due to its characteristics, this was in fact a voluntary homicide, in saying this it means that Derek did not foresee this crime occurring and was forced to take action by means of a provocation.
However, when we see Danny writing his essay, he writes “it would have been life if I testified” and then erases it. Rape – Rape occurs following Trek’s’ realization of what it was in fact that as going on behind bars when he witnesses a Hispanic inmate handing one of his fellow Neo Nazi inmates some drugs that he would be selling at a profit. Secluding himself and ignoring his former acquaintances proves to be the final show of any alliance he has with white supremacists, and while taking a shower he is attacked and customized by Neo Nazi inmates.
Hate Crimes are another prevalent type of crime in the story; this is evident when along with Derek and Danny, a multitude of skinheads attack Archie Millers former store which is now being run by Koreans. Vandalizing the store and attacking its employees. Domestic Violence is another crime that occurs, and it occurs while Derek, Danny, Doris Vineyard (Beverly Tangelo), Divan Vineyard (Jennifer Lien), Stacey – Derek’ girlfriend (Affairs Balk) and Murray – Dandy’s Jewish history teacher (Elliot Gould) are eating and start having a discussion about Rodney King and the outcome of the case.
Eventually in a fit of anger Derek grabs Divan shoving food into her mouth to the point that she cannot breathe. And finally, Murder, this occurs in the shocking finale of the movie. The fellow black student that the previous day Danny had blown smoke into their face, turned after a continuous mind washing by fellow older black gang members convinced him that it was necessary for him to kill Danny. Derek walks with Danny to school the following morning after his release, Derek successfully changing Danny’ views and showing him that all the hate and teachings by Cameron Alexander were wrong.
He says goodbye to Danny and cautious that he is going to be jumped by the D. O. C. He leaves him. Danny kisses his girlfriend and goes to the bathroom. He hears somebody behind him and turns to see the black student from the day before that he had blown smoke into his face…. Three shots ring out and Danny is killed. Morals / Issues / Values Sexuality / Gender Issues There were no Sexuality Or gender issues. Substances. Substances that are portrayed in this movie are drugs, alcohol, and tobacco.
Surprisingly though, the drug of choice is none other than the rapidly declining tobacco. It is used in one of the most important scenes of the movie where Danny blows smoke into the black kids face in the bathroom. Throughout much of the movie in fact we see Danny smoking a cigarette, also Doris Vineyard is seen having breathing problems obviously due to cigarette smoking. Drugs are passed from the Hispanic inmate to the apparent leader of the Aryan Brotherhood inmate much to the disbelief of Derek Vineyard .
Alcohol is used in the D. O. C. Party where Derek severe his ties with the white supremacist gang and Cameron Alexander. Technical The aspect of filming some of the scenes in black and white helped portray the events taking place in the past were valuable to the storytelling of the movie, also moments of slow motion helped impress a particular situation on the audience. Comments Probably one of the best movies of the sass’s, American History X takes on en of the oldest problems known to man, racism!
Not since Chandlers’ List has a movie done what American History X attempted and succeeded to achieve, the harsh reality of racism today and the affect it has not just on the ones showing the racism, feeling racism, but on their loved ones too. The outstanding cinematography, the use of slow motion to instill the effects of certain power points that the director is trying to make the audience absorb more. Also the use of black and white photography depicting past events of the brothers’ lives is well used and assists in telling their story.
The acting was phenomenal, in particular Edward North’s portrayal of Derek Vineyard, who gives the viewer the feeling of hate, and then turns it 1 800 as he realizes his wrongdoings and turns against what he used to believe in. One particular part of the movie wanted to point out that many may have overlooked. Derek is taking a shower at home following his release from prison, when he gets out he looks at the swastika tattooed on his chest and covers it, showing his disgust in the beliefs he had.