My reaction to this powerhouse critical darling is a bit mixed. It's nothing if not a tolerant, realistic, masterful film that features the performances of two talented actors with their own striking resumes: Edward Norton and Edward Furlong. It does cover the many different facets of the racism, brainwashing, and tactics of large, fatalistic cults or factions such as the neo-Nazis. The film follows the downfall of an intelligent young man in Venice Beach who begins a faction of neo-Nazis under the mind changing logic of a mastermind fiend. Edward Norton portrays Darren Vinyard, the changed man out of the penal system, and Furlong plays his brother, affected by his brother's domineering presence and following in his footsteps. The film deals with the plot through many different flashbacks, most of them through the perspective of Derek's brother, Danny. Otherwise it plays in real time, following Derek out of prison, the life of his brother at his school, and the effect his incarcertaion has had on his family. There are some morose supporting performances from Elliott Gould, Beverly D'Angelo, and Fairuza Balk. Even Ewen Bremner appears as a grotesque neo-Nazi who has a character with the same thoughtless mouth as real people I've met time and again in my own life. The guiding force, or changing influence in the film is taken by both brothers' school principal who seems to be a larger active presence than need be. He's a do gooder, a man of color so his words aren't taken outright, and every word he speaks drips with thoughtful empathy, encouragment, and upright pretension. Though the film does do its duty of unearthing the pained politics of the racist factions in our society still today, it's almost heavyhanded with its blatant approach at seeming enlightening. The ending, though obvious from the flow of the film, was abrupt and strange. The original director, Tony Kaye, tried to get his name taken off the credits, and the final cut of the film was the third altogether. The violence was the most jarring aspect, as it wasn't needless. It kept me shaken, and kept me thinking afterward, which was the objective in the first place. I found it to be interesting, poignant, and thoughtful, and yet flawed throughout. Definitely see for the bitter performances and staying power.