American History X (1998)

American History X (1998)
American History X (1998) DVD / Blu-ray

By: Sam Lord (Two Beers) –

Edward Furlong’s cinematic career emulates the life of the Average Joe American. He was a fresh-faced, endearing child in 1994’s Terminator 2: Judgement Day (James Cameron). He became an aggressive and rebellious teenager in American History X (Tony Kaye 1998). And now he sort of loafs around watching reruns of Ice Road Truckers and Swamp People.

During his brief period of stardom, Furlong exhibited true talent, specifically in the above mentioned American History X. Telling the story of a rehabilitated neo-nazi (Edward Norton) and his younger brother, eager to follow his skinhead footsteps (Furlong), the film excellently sheds light on racism and family in modern America.

A Toast

The film consists of two alternating timelines: the past, showing the contributing factors to Norton’s plunge into Nazism, his eventual arrest, and his rehabilitation in prison, and the present, in which Norton attempts to rid himself and his younger brother of his demons. The stylistic choice to shoot the scenes from the past in black and white evokes an emotional reaction from the audience and is a great metaphor for the racial tension throughout the film. Of course, it’s also really fucking obvious.

The drastic images portrayed in the film walk a dangerous line between being offensive and unnecessarily dramatic, and being insightful representations of racism. Kaye walks the line brilliantly and employs incredible images, without seeming profound simply for the sake of being profound. Furthermore, some scenes from the film are deeply moving. Some others are just plain badass.

Speaking of badass, Norton’s performance is beyond stellar, even if his swastika tattoo looked alarmingly like Sharpie. With the exception of trying to pass for a teenager, Norton’s transformation is entirely believable. The depth of his character is reflected in the emotions he depicts, and it’s easy to root for him. At least, after the whole curb-stomping fiasco.

“Come and bask in my badassery”
Furlong’s performance deserves equal praise. If Norton is the star of the film, Furlong is the emotional force driving the film forward. His desire for his big brother’s approval has blinded him, and his growth throughout the film is truly moving. There’s never a real doubt that he is a good guy, ultimately making him the easiest Nazi to like until Hans Landa.
Beer Two

Unfortunately, the talent ends after the two Ed’s. The supporting cast is undeniably weak. Ethan Suplee as Norton’s best Nazi friend is obnoxious and his unabashed racism is, in the end, annoying. And Fairuza Balk may be the worst love interest in the history of cinema. She had a good year in 1998 with this film and Waterboy (Frank Coraci, 1998) but she hasn’t done much since. Apart from having a name that’s fun to type, she has little going for her. But I guess she looked enough like a crack addicted Nazi to get a supporting role in one of the best films of the 90’s.
Tell me I’m pretty!


The Edwards’ performances and the stylistic choices of the film make this story of racism easy to get lost in. There are some immortal images within these two hours which almost negate the poor supporting cast. And now I know that “Put your mouth on the curb” is the scariest and most badass thing anyone can ever say to you.


Bonus Drinking Game

Take a Drink: every time you hear a different racial slur

Take a Drink: for Elliot Gould. He deserves it

Shotgun a Beer: during the curb stomp scene, just so you can pretend to be as awesome as Edward Norton

About Sam Lord

Movieboozer is a humor website and drinking games are intended for entertainment purposes only, please drink responsibly.

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