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Word Count: 520
Derek Vinyard a skinhead leader of a white-power organization utterly transformed by a spell in prison was frightening and heartbreaking angry and serene I dont think Ive ever seen a character in a film with a more believably wide range In the hands of a less capable actor Derek would have been a laughable parody and American History X a heavy-handed disaster But Derek never descended to stereotype and X is a penetrating look at the effects of racism and hatred on its adherents I thought that many scenes were disturbing not only was the violence brutal but so was Dereks reaction to killing black men He smiled with smug satisfaction while the police barked at him as they placed him under arrest However while a trifle preachy at times American History X is a profound if harsh film about how the bond of love between brothers can also be a conduit of hate The faint of heart may cringe but this is a film that should be seen by everyone However when Derek convicted merely of manslaughter is released from prison and returns home we could tell it was a new Derek Derek was no longer the tightly coiled knot of anger he once was because he was an insecure frustrated and impressionable kid who slid down a self-destructive path pushed by adults who used him The kids who were just as angry as Derek followed him They were the vulnerable kids who needed to feel like they were part of something or somewhere and Derek was there to make them feel that way In the end Derek felt responsible for Dannys death He held his bloody brother in his hands and cried out What did I do This was because Derek felt that he had made his own brother follow his foot steps like he did to other kids Danny who idolized his older brother had picked up where Derek left off
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