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A view on Blu-ray by Gary W. Tooze

 

American History X [Blu-ray]

 

(Tony Kaye, 1998)

 

 

Review by Gary Tooze

 

Studio:

Theatrical: New Line Cinema

Video: New Line Home Video

Disc:

Region: FREE!

Runtime: 1:58:53.417

Disc Size: 29,368,655,559 bytes

Feature Size: 28,718,032,896 bytes

Average Bitrate: 32.21 Mbps

Chapters: 33

Case: Standard Blu-ray case

Release date: April 7th, 2009

 

Video:

Aspect ratio: 1.78:1

Resolution: 1080p

Video codec: VC-1 Video

 

Audio:

Dolby TrueHD Audio English 1530 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 1530 kbps / 16-bit (AC3 Core: 5.1 / 48 kHz / 640 kbps)
Dolby Digital Audio English 640 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 640 kbps

 

Subtitles:

English, Spanish, none

 

Extras:

• Three Deleted Scene (6:54 in SD)

• Trailer (2:29 in HD!)

 

Bitrate:

 

 

Description: Edward Norton gives an impassioned performance as Derek Vinyard, a Southern Californian skinhead who must do time after committing a hateful murder. Once in jail, his mind opens and he sees the error of his ways. Upon reentering the real world, he must now turn his attentions to his younger brother Danny, who is swiftly heading down the same path as his brother. Controversy surrounded the film when director Tony Kaye disowned it, claiming that Norton had the film re-edited without Kaye's permission. Norton still got an Oscar Nomination for his intense performance.

***

Derek Vinyard is dangerous, a coiled fury of hate who leads a neo-Nazi gang. But time and events start to change him. He reassesses his ways while doing time for manslaughter and emerges from prison eager to keep his younger brother (Edward Furlong) from falling victim to the thug cycle of violence and payback. It may be too late. Weaving in and out of events past and present in Dereks life, American History X is revealing in its look at white-supremacist gangs and impassioned in its message that hatred and bigotry can be unlearned. Edward Norton (Fight Club, Pride and Glory) portrays Derek, giving a powerful, persuasive, Oscar®-nominated* performance.

 

 

The Film:

American History X is littered with pitfalls. It is unavoidably didactic in its messaging. It is distractingly overwritten in certain scenes. Its tone is weirdly, uncomfortably operatic, replete with muscular orchestral music so extravagant one might think it was a '40s period piece. So many potential problems -- and yet despite its flaws (and perhaps because of them), the film finds a sublime power that is not easily achieved in American cinema. Contradictory though it may seem, American History X is utterly flawed -- and one of the most important films in recent memory.

The film tells the story of two brothers whose lives have been defined by racism. Derek (Edward Norton) is a former skinhead who has just been released from prison after serving three years for manslaughter (gruesome, hate-driven manslaughter). After years as the de facto leader of Venice, California's White Power sect, he has emerged with a full head of hair and a completely different outlook on humanity. His younger brother Danny (Edward Furlong) idolizes the imposing deity of white supremacy that Derek once was and now lives his life as a hateful mirror of that persona. When Derek re-enters Danny's life with a conflicting influence, the film examines the culture shock of the new Derek's presence in his old environment and the ramifications of Derek's choices on the life of his brother.

Excerpt from Jason McKiernan at filmcritic.com located HERE

 

 


Image :    NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were ripped directly from the Blu-ray disc.
 

New Line's Blu-ray of American History X looks solid. The image quality shows some healthy grain with the black and white flashback sequences appearing even grittier. Detail, though rarely pristine, and contrast seem very adept and it's hard to believe the film is over a decade old now. This squeaks into dual-layered territory with the feature being under 30 Gig and the bitrate supports the 2-hour film in the low 30's (Mbps). Colors aren't overly bright and the image is not glossy - this tends to export the realism of the film to an appropriate deal. It doesn't exhibit extravagant depth. Skin tones seem true while daylight scenes, with a setting sun, are occasionally glaring. This Blu-ray has a nice realistic feel and I don't have any demonstrative complaints.  It's refreshing to see the background grain so intense and I don't have evidence of digital manipulations. This image is far superior to the existing NTSC DVD.

 

CLICK EACH BLU-RAY CAPTURE TO SEE ALL IMAGES IN FULL 1920X1080 RESOLUTION

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Audio :

Audio is presented in TrueHD at 1530 kbps along with the choice of s standard 5.1 track. Despite American History X's intensity and occasional seething score by Anne Dudley - it is not an aggressive track with minimal gunplay (two scenes) and mostly dialogue is the proponent of conflict. The mix is not demo-material but supports the film adequately. Subtitles are available in both English and Spanish. We've been told this release is region FREE!

 

 

 

Extras :

The supplements are minimal and duplicate the DVD with three deleted scenes (7:00 in SD) that seem fairly effective for the film - but possibly were considered overkill. Included is a 2.5 minute HD trailer - but that is all. The film has wide acclaim and important social and political messages that would seem to warrant more - as in a commentary but perhaps director Tony Kaye's distancing of the final cut has quashed anything of this nature. Regardless - it is a shame.

 

BOTTOM LINE:
Powerful and uniquely structured story which produced a very watchable and impacting film. This Blu-ray gives a worthy presentation although we are disappointed in the lack of new extras. Still - this may be considered a must own for Norton's memorable performance and the vast improvement over standard definition transfer. This makes for a potent night in the home theater - that's for sure. 

Gary Tooze

March 30th, 2009

 


 

About the Reviewer: Hello, fellow Beavers! I have been interested in film since I viewed a Chaplin festival on PBS when I was around 9 years old. I credit DVD with expanding my horizons to fill an almost ravenous desire to seek out new film experiences. I currently own approximately 7500 DVDs and have reviewed over 3000 myself. I appreciate my discussion Listserv for furthering my film education and inspiring me to continue running DVDBeaver. Plus a healthy thanks to those who donate and use our Amazon links.

Although I never wanted to become one of those guys who focused 'too much' on image and sound quality - I find HD is swiftly pushing me in that direction. So be it, but film will always be my first love and I list my favorites on the old YMdb site now accessible HERE.  

Gary's Home Theatre:

Samsung HPR4272 42" Plasma HDTV
Toshiba HD-A2 HD-DVD player (firmware upgraded)

Sony BDP-S300 1080p Blu-ray Disc Player (firmware upgraded)
Sony DVP NS5ODH SD-DVD player (region-free and HDMI)

Marantz SA8001 Super Audio CD Player
Marantz SR7002 THX Select2 Surround Receiver
Tannoy DC6-T (fronts) + Energy (centre, rear, subwoofer) speakers (5.1)

Gary W. Tooze

 

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