Failing 'American History'

November 20, 1998|By Ann Hornaday

The opening of "American History X," which was reviewed in last Friday's Sun, was delayed until today. The full review is still available on the Web at http: // BALMD/0000/01/82/cs1.html. Here is a summary:

"American History X" has been dogged by so much controversy recently that filmgoers may wonder whether they should wear flak jackets and safety goggles.

Well, doff those goggles and unzip the protective outerwear: The good news and the bad news is that "American History X" is nothing to be afraid of. Star Edward Norton plays skinhead teen-ager Derek Vinyard, whose most menacing attribute isn't his imposing physicality, it's his mind. He mends his ways in prison, then tries to steer his little brother (Edward Furlong) from the same path. Norton commands the screen with his usual mix of gravitas and protean power.

The film is hindered by an overripe orchestral score and suffers from an ending that even Norton can't save from being hopelessly maudlin. But the great disappointment of "American History X" is that, as carefully as it builds the case for racism, it isn't nearly so meticulous when it tears it down. R 188 minutes ** 1/2

Pub Date: 11/20/98

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