Picks and Pans Review: American History X

updated 11/09/1998 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 11/09/1998 AT 01:00 AM EST

Edward Norton, Edward Furlong

Director Tony Kaye has publicly disowned this, his first movie. New Line Cinema, reportedly alarmed that Kaye wanted to completely redo a version he submitted last fall, removed the movie from his control. His name is still on the film, although at one point he suggested the director be listed as Humpty Dumpty—apt for such a scrambled mess, whoever's responsible for it.

Norton plays an ex-neo-Nazi trying to reform his younger brother (Furlong)—who has just written a high school paper touting Hitler's Mein Kampf—and is impressive, as always. He's equally convincing as a Nazi skinhead, with a mad glint in his eye, and as the older, humbler fellow now resolved to fight hatred. But the psychology of his redemption is so simplistic (for one thing, he feels vulnerable after getting raped in prison), one Norton doesn't flow into the other. And where's the history? There are no details about young neo-Nazis other than that they're pimply, mean and throw bad parties.

Beloved is a big, serious movie about the history of racism. See that. (R)

Bottom Line: X-asperating Leah Rozen is on vacation.

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