Instead, it examines the various ways these elements tear at the fabric of a family.
Derek's followers include his younger brother, Danny (Edward Furlong), who worships him; his girlfriend, Stacey (Fairuza Balk), who thoughtlessly parrots his words; and a fat man named Seth (Ethan Suplee), who finds strength in a group that he lacks on his own.
Derek's mother, Doris (Beverly D'Angelo), and sister, Davin (Jennifer Lien), are frightened of and for him.
Although it treads similar paths, American History X does not offer the same overwhelming experience, but it has the capacity to disturb.
Despite a tendency to become preachy, this film, the directorial debut of Tony Kaye, is no mere piece of propaganda.
Then, on one fateful night, Derek uses deadly force to stop a pair of black youths from stealing his car.
He ends up in prison for three years, and, while on the inside, learns some hard truths about life from a fellow inmate (Guy Torry) and from the principal of his old high school (Avery Brooks), who takes a special interest in him.
Kaye imbues American History X with a relentlessly ominous tone, especially during the final half hour, when we're expecting something grim to occur.
Not all of Kaye's moves work - it seems unnecessarily showy for all of the "past" sequences to be in black-and-white, while the "current" ones are in color - but, on balance, Kaye displays ability in the motion picture arena (he is already highly praised for his direction of TV commercials).
In the world of the skinhead neo-Nazi, slogans replace thought, fueling a mindless hatred that is startling in its intensity.
Derek Vinyard (Edward Norton) is one of the most fervent members of the Venice Beach White Supremacist movement.