It's an imperfect though damn engaging piece of workTony Kaye must really be a nut.
The eccentric artist-turned-director wanted the Alan Smithee treatment when Fine Line didn't go with his cut. I don't recall a director actually wanting to take his name off a GOOD movie, let alone a film that flirts with greatness as this one does.
Not that it's perfect. Far from it. But when you center a film around as amazing and intelligent an actor as Edward Norton, chances are you'll strike gold. Every second he's on-screen, you know you're seeing a master at work.
Norton, who projects brainpower like few actors working today, is a keenly intelligent leader in the white supremacy movement when he gets tossed in jail. Edward Furlong is his younger brother who follows in Norton's footsteps while he's in the joint. Problem is, when Norton gets out, he's reformed, and must not only face down his old cronies, he has to give Furlong a chance to get out, too.
Not every performance is great, and not every moment is spectacular. Some of the early explication is clumsy, and the film doesn't entirely earn Norton's conversion from angry hatemonger to peace-seeking dove. Furlong is inconsistent, and Elliott Gould and Avery Brooks, while effective, are sometimes annoyingly mannered. Fairuza Balk is wasted. HBS favorite Ethan Supplee is at once funny and disturbing though, hitting all the right notes in his supporting nod.
What it boils down to, though, is compelling filmmaking, with a constant sense of dread and threat. "X" never claims answers are easy, and is smart enough not to offer any.Forget Tony Kaye's bitching. It's good.