The Believer

2002

The Believer

Critics Consensus

Gosling commands the screen with a raw, electrifying performance.

83%

TOMATOMETER

Total Count: 92

82%

Audience Score

User Ratings: 25,200
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Movie Info

A highly charged drama centering on a Jewish Nazi and based upon a real-life tale, this film by Henry Bean looks at young Danny Balint (Ryan Gosling), a former yeshiva student with a thorough knowledge of the Torah who is first seen as an angry skinhead roaming the streets of New York City. Danny has found allies in the home of Lina Moebius (Theresa Russell), where fascist leader Curtis Zampf (Billy Zane) has been speaking, and he begins to become part of their circle, including romancing Lina's troubled daughter Carla (Summer Phoenix). After a fight in a kosher deli, Danny and his skinhead pals are sentenced to sensitivity sessions with elderly Holocaust survivors, and though Danny is angered by their passivity, their stories haunt him. When the bombing of a synagogue is proposed, Danny is shocked to learn that he cares somewhat for this history that he has been ignoring. Living a more peaceful Jewish existence by day and a hate-fueled skinhead life at night, Danny is conflicted by his upbringing and the desire to question it. The Believer was the Grand Jury Prize winner at the 2001 Sundance Film Festival.

Cast

Ryan Gosling
as Danny Balint
Summer Phoenix
as Carla Moebius
Theresa Russell
as Lina Moebius
Billy Zane
as Curtis Zampf
Kris Eivers
as Carleton
Roberto Gari
as Ancient Jew
A.D. Miles
as Guy Danielson
Ronald Guttman
as Danny's Father
Jack Drummond
as Old Coot
Sig Libowitz
as Rav Singesser
Jacob Green
as Young Danny
Frank Winters
as Young Stuart
Peter Meadows
as Orthodox Student
Ebon Moss-Bachrach
as First Waiter
Lucille Patton
as Mrs. Frankel
John Martin
as Hate Counselor
Michael Marcus
as Polish Man
Sascha Knopf
as Cindy Pomerantz
Tibor Feldman
as Rabbi Greenwalt
Henry Bean
as Ilio Manzetti
Jordan Lage
as Roger Brand
Samantha Brody
as Rosh Hashana Attendee
Michael Port
as TV Reporter
Carl Fischer
as Guy's Photographer
Harvey Liberman
as Man at Yom Kippur
Eileen B. Weiss
as Woman at Yom Kippur
View All

News & Interviews for The Believer

Critic Reviews for The Believer

All Critics (92) | Top Critics (28) | Fresh (76) | Rotten (16)

  • ... stars an astonishing Ryan Gosling...

    Feb 2, 2018 | Full Review…
  • People have a right to make godless films. Bean's made one, and it's as brilliant as it is humane.

    Nov 14, 2017
  • An exploration of what it means to be Jewish and what it means to hate - two separate subjects that happen to overlap in this case.

    Oct 15, 2009 | Rating: 3/4
  • No polemic, the movie puts our own religious sensibilities and prejudices to the test. The result is arresting, prickly, vaguely funny, even - 'difficult' in the best sense.

    Jan 26, 2006 | Full Review…
    Time Out
    Top Critic
  • An important movie, a reminder of the power of film to move us and to make us examine our values.

    Aug 16, 2002 | Rating: 4/5 | Full Review…
  • [Gosling's] combination of explosive physical energy and convincing intelligence helps create a complex, unpredictable character.

    Aug 16, 2002 | Rating: 3/4

Audience Reviews for The Believer

  • Oct 14, 2012
    I guess the acting was good, but I didn't care for this at all.
    Erin C Super Reviewer
  • Aug 27, 2011
    I will get flak for this yet, despite the holocaust and a myriad of atrocities and skewed ideologies, the Nazi's had some good ideas. I am not talking about anti-Semitics or eugenics. Germany was a thriving country, the best in the world as far science, technology, philosophy, and art. So it's easy to see how Neo-Nazi scum can live by this (malignant, sickening) ideology. 'American History X' is a great movie with a lot of strong scenes and speeches. Norton was remarkable and the photography was beautiful. So here we have 'The Believer', which is the best movie I have seen on Neo-Nazis. With a smaller budget the movie cannot indulge us with B & W symbolic scenery - who needs that when you have Ryan Gosling? Gosling's performance tops Norton's performance and here is why: Norton was chewing up scenery, wanted the movie to be his own, and used his buffed-up menacing act to convey emotions with strong glimpses of his transformation. So what does Gosling do? He was born Jewish that conforms to Hitler's poorly written ideologies, shows incredible depth in range, is more a human than a caricature. 'The Believer' is a powerful and disturbing movie and one that is almost solely Gosling's show, displaying his genius as an actor in every scene. There's intense dialogues, speeches, beating, killings, and . . . I cannot give it away. If any movie somehow intellectualizes and understands what Neo-Nazi are really about I suggest 'The Believer' over the MTV-stylized, almost glorified violence of 'American History X' - and I say this because every ignorant youth I grew up with cited 'X' and the curb-stomping scene as 'fucking awesome." 'The Believers' doesn't give the uninformed something to cheer about nor does it shy away from the brutality, nihilism, and internal struggles that members of our terrible new movement that is the Nazi party live by.
    Jonny B Super Reviewer
  • Jun 10, 2011
    Three years previous to this, director Tony Kaye and star Edward Norton addressed white supremicist racism in "American History X". This shares similiar themes but focuses more on the hatred toward Jews. The real similarity between the films though are blisteringly powerful performances from both lead actors. Daniel Balint (Ryan Gosling) is a yeshiva-educated young Jewish man in New York who rejects his heritage and chooses to become a neo-Nazi skinhead. His passion is frighteningly real which leads to looming dangers for himself and his community. The comparisons are inevitable and although both powerful and controversial films in their own right, with "American History X" and "The Believer" it's the tour-de-force performances from Edward Norton and Ryan Gosling that really take centre stage. Gosling is no less effective than Norton's Oscar nominated turn and after seeing this, it's getting to the stage that it seems there's no limits to his acting range. He is this film. Don't get me wrong, writer/director Henry Bean crafts some strong and intelligent dialogue, but it's Gosling's delivery of anti-semitic vitriol that packs the real power. The problems it faces are having a less than par supporting cast and a made for television budget. The flaws show but it's still a savage examination of anti-semitism and one worthy of attention. A brave film anchored by a bold and brave performance. It's easy to see why this put Ryan Gosling on the map, he delivers a ferocious piece of work.
    Mark W Super Reviewer
  • Nov 29, 2010
    Ryan shines as an actor. Without the cliches like the tight jawed, no make up wearing woman with the pulled back hair trying to control an activist movement and the whore that is capable of love; this movie had more potential that was lost. This was one of Ryan Gosling's earliest standout roles and knowing he started on "The Mickey Mouse Club" and has not had formal acting training shows an actor that chooses jobs that challenge him verses makes him money (although I am sure he has plenty money also).
    Thomas J Super Reviewer

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