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HTF BLU-RAY REVIEW: American History X



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#1 of 2 Cameron Yee

Cameron Yee

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Posted April 30 2009 - 04:08 PM

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American History X

Release Date: Available now
Studio: New Line Cinema
Packaging/Materials: Single-disc Blu-Ray case
Year: 1998
Rating: R
Running Time: 1h55m
MSRP: $28.99

 MAIN FEATURESPECIAL FEATURES
Video1080p high definition 16x9 1.85:1Partially 1080i or 1080p high definition; paritally 480i or 480p standard definition
AudioDolby TrueHD: English 5.1 / Dolby Digital: English 5.1Stereo
SubtitlesEnglish, SpanishNone


The Feature: 4/5
Derek Vinyard (Edward Norton), a once-rising star among white supremacists in Venice Beach, California, has been released from prison after a three-year stint for manslaughter. As he re-acclimates there's no shortage of expectation thrown his way. Most of his family and friends assume he'll pick up where he left off as the protegé to Cameron Alexander (Stacy Keach), the leader of a growing gang of Neo-Nazis, but there's something different about Derek post-incarceration. His hesitance and caution is understandable given his recent prison term, but gone is the rage and vitriol that once fueled him. Unfortunately his younger brother Daniel (Edward Furlong) seems to be headed down a similar path of hatred and violence, though it's unclear whether he actually believes the white power propaganda he's spouting or is just trying to live up to his brother's legacy. Though Derek himself inherited that legacy from their father, it's up to Derek to put it to an end.

Though "American History X" sports a rather notorious production history, the issues revolving around eccentric director Tony Kaye seem to have had little affect on the film's emotional impact. Though some of the material is hard to watch, the uncompromising portrait of what leads a person to hate and commit acts of violence against others will leave viewers searching their own souls for signs of that bitter poison. Though white supremacy is an extreme perspective and lifestyle, there's also a subtle allure to its underpinnings that, as disturbing as that is, would be foolish for anyone to ignore. That the once mild mannered and academically minded Derek could morph into a rage-infested thug speaks to everyone's potential to hate given the right environment. But potential to change exists in equal measure, and Derek eventually does alter course as his anger gives way to reason. But sadly, no man is an island, and just as the film is uncompromising in its depiction of Derek's choices, it is equally uncompromising about the unintended consequences to his family. Though it doesn't make for the most hopeful of endings, it does ring true, serving as a powerful, cautionary tale that everyone should take to heart.


Video Quality: 4/5
Presented in 1080p with the VC-1 codec, the film's image fills the entirety of my 16:9 display despite the package stating it as 1.85:1. Black levels are deep and inky and contrast looks solid with no visible crush at either end of the spectrum. The black and white sequences look especially good in this regard. Though there's nothing particularly colorful about the film, which suits the serious topic, instances of color show good depth and saturation. Sharpness and detail are decent, with some occasional softness that could be original to the source. Close-ups can look quite good, however, revealing subtle textures in skin and hair; grain structure also looks nicely preserved with no visible signs of noise reduction. Slight edge halos can be seen here and there, but aren't generally a distraction.


Audio Quality: 3/5
Dialogue dominates the Dolby TrueHD audio track and is consistently clear and intelligible. Surround channels offer light support for the film score, with an occasional environmental effect, but it's predominantly a front and center audio experience. LFE is non-existent.


Special Features: 1.5/5

Additional Scenes (6m54s): Three scenes.

Trailer (2m29s): In high definition.


Recap

The Feature: 4/5
Video Quality: 4/5
Audio Quality: 3/5
Special Features: 1.5/5
Overall Score (not an average): 3.5/5

A powerful film on the toxic effects of hate gets a decent technical presentation though a limited set of special features.
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#2 of 2 Dave H

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Posted April 30 2009 - 04:23 PM

I will definitely be picking this up at some point. I'm also encouraged at Warner's progress on recent catalog titles.