by Ryan Arthur
The best film dealing with race relations since Do The Right Thing.I don't pretend to understand what's going on with dirctor Tony Kaye. It's beyond me why anyone would want their name removed from such a powerful, great film.
"Stunning. Probably the best of the year."
Make no mistake, this movie is not pretty. It's not fun. It made me squirm and cringe. Not because it was bad, but because it's powerful stuff. It's uneven at times, but no less poweful.
Edward Norton plays Derek, a neo-Nazi skinhead just out of prison. Through flashback sequences, we see how he became the person he was and how he ended up in jail. We also see how his life shaped and changed the life of his younger brother Danny (Edward Furlong) who, in the present, seems to be following in his brother's footsteps. Derek, under the advice of Danny's teacher Sweeney (Avery Brooks), who also taught Derek, has to try to get him away from that life. Again, through flashback, we see Derek in prison and how his relationships with other white supremicists (and a black prisoner), a brutal rape, and his relationship with Sweeney changed who he was.
The film is crammed into 24 hours, when Derek tells off a shadowy neo-Nazi leader (Stacy Keach) and turns his back on the movement, his former friend Seth (Ethan Suplee) and even his girlfriend Stacey (Fairuza Balk), then chases down Danny and tells his story. The brothers bond, and there's a moment of serenity before a predictible, but no less shattering, climax.
As I said, it's somewhat uneven. The story seems crammed into its timeframe. There's too much material (four years worth of story on Derek) to adequately cover. The cast is largely underused (Balk is practically wasted, and Brooks, so good with the right material, isn't given enough screen time) with the exception of Norton, Furlong and Suplee, and Furlong seems content to merely smoke. Suplee gives a powerful, violent performance as Seth, a far cry from comedic turns in Mallrats and Chasing Amy. But this is Norton's show.
We see Derek as he is and was, and Norton is convincing each time. Whether it is as the repentant Derek of now, or the hate-filled Derek of before, or even the younger Derek before that, Norton has tremendous presence. There should be another Oscar nomination for him.
Kaye also throws in some showy camerawork, and the flashback sequences (in black and white) work well.
Strong stuff, this is. It needs to be seen.Violent and disturbing, and not easy to forget.
link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=176&reviewer=7
originally posted: 12/01/98 02:59:31