Like Primal Fear, American History X is one of those movies that just makes you love Ed Norton. He’s a true acting virtuoso, and someone I wish would make more damn movies and win some Oscars already.
In this movie, we follow the story of Derek (Norton), a sociopathic skinhead that winds up in prison for brutally killing a black man. While incarcerated, Derek befriends a black inmate who sees beyond his racism and causes Derek to change his attitudes and realize the horrible social and spiritual damage of racism.
Derek leaves prison a new man but now must try to save his family, and little brother in particular, from the hate he and his deceased father ingrained in them.
This is probably Furlong’s best performance, but he’s outclassed by Norton, whose performance is just chillingly spectacular. His rage is almost palpable and, at points, you actually find yourself beginning to agree with his twisted logic (which is one of the most powerful aspects of the movie–it’s an exploration of the real life temptations of “silent” racism). This is an Oscar-winning performance that was snubbed by the Academy, probably because of the subject matter.