From under a mountain of hype and controversy, British director Tony Kaye delivers a surprisingly powerful social drama set among members of California's White Power underground. Derek Vinyard (Edward Norton), the leader of a violent Venice Beach Neo-Nazi
gang, is sent to prison for the brutal murder of a black gang member. Three years later, Derek leaves the penitentiary a changed man, eager to put all the racial hatred and senseless violence behind him, but finds it's not so easy: His younger brother Danny (Edward Furlong) has been fully
indoctrinated into the White Power movement. The film flashes back from the day of Derek's release to the defining moments of his past, including the murder of his father, a fireman who was gunned down while trying to put out a crack-house fire. Kaye's film has garnered a lot of pre-release
publicity, not only by virtue of its incendiary subject matter, but also because of Kaye's own bizarre antics regarding the film's final cut, which he deemed so awful he petitioned to have his name removed and replaced with "Humpty Dumpty." Kaye, whose previous directing experience was in
commercials and music video, needn't have made such a fuss: The cut on hand is a grim, uncompromising piece of filmmaking, intelligently written by David McKenna and dramatically shot -- mostly in black and white -- by Kaye himself. But it's Norton who makes the film such an enlightening
experience, and he's mesmerizing. With the same spellbinding eloquence that he brought to THE PEOPLE VS. LARRY FLYNT, Norton nails the charisma essential to his character and dares to make Derek dangerously attractive -- it's hard to tell exactly where rationality breaks down and the ugly
hate-speak begins -- and the seduction of disenfranchised white teenagers becomes frighteningly comprehensible.
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