This is the incredibly powerful story of two brothers who fall into the trap of racism and hate. It is also the story of these brothers trying to free themselves from racism and hate. After spending some time in prison for murdering two blacks who try and steal his car (a dispute starting with a basketball game), former neo-nazi Derek Vinyard (Edward Norton) leaves his incarceration a changed man. To his dismay, however, he find that his younger brother is walking the same path he once did. The movie uses black-and-white scenes from the past in conjunction with color scenes in the current situation to establish Derek's sordid history as a vicious racist and show his path to change.
The younger brother, Danny (Edward Furlong), idolizes Derek. In fact, the local coterie of skinheads all do. Derek has a power to feed the hate of his retinue with fiery rhetoric that targets ethnic groups indiscriminately with intense indignation. The movie is truly scary when you see the skinheads bonding, brought together by an irrational hate and Derek's ability to gratify it with his fierce oratories.
Edward Norton was robbed when the Academy denied him the Oscar for Best Actor (he was nominated, though). His performance is compelling and real...frighteningly so. He effectively straddles the line between a smart kid with dumb ideas and the true racist seething with hate. I sincerely think he is one of Hollywood's most promising actors. Edward Furlong is also powerful, which is shocking for an actor of his age. Danny shares Derek's hate, but not the ability to convey it "rationally." The script is stunning, likewise the directing and editing.
The movie is violent and brutal, almost disturbingly so, but it is critical to underscore the power of the story. This is not tasteless killing. And it does not glorify racism...it exposes the consequences of racism and its absurdity. It shows how screwed-up people can rise above the pettiness of hate. One of the most powerful scenes in the movie is when Derek and Danny pull down all the Nazi crap on his bedroom wall.
This movie is intense, as well. I must have lost 20 pounds watching it, because my heart was pounding insanely hard. The ending is horrifyingly sad...I have to wonder if I've ever been more moved by a movie.
Be warned: It's brutal, gritty, and emotionally heavy. But at the same time it's a remarkably powerful story with first-rate acting and a powerful message. Don't pass this one up.
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