The shock opening sums up the strength and weakness of this would-be liberal drama on American neo-Nazism: after Danny (Furlong) warns elder brother Derek (Norton) of intruders, the latter rushes out and kills two black car thieves. An energetic, taut flashback sequence, shot in b/w, sets up the working class milieu, the sibling relationship, and Derek's frightening but seductive mastery, masculinity and charisma - with the high sheen visuals fetishising Norton's hard, hairless, swastika-tattooed torso along the way. Disowned by its director and reportedly re-edited by its star, the film lurches from dramatic and visual overkill to comparative inertia as it traces (in colour) Danny's development into a favoured follower of neo-Nazi leader Cameron (Keach), his run-ins with a painstakingly reformist headmaster (Brooks), and, following Derek's release from prison, his tragic rejection of his brother's rehabilitation. Two things hold the interest: Norton's astounding performance, and a feeling for the male reality of reactionary working class environments.
American History X
Cast and crew