The Believer (2001)
Reviewed on 2011 March 14
Fact-based, disjointed movie, based on one of the most pathetic and screwed-up people I’ve seen in my run on this earth. Grant it, I hope to have many more years, but so far this doofus is a real contender.
Daniel Balint (Ryan Gosling) is a skinhead, proud of his Aryan tats, his oddly-shaped shaven head, and the red laces in his combat boots. He loves to harass minorities of all kinds but he has a special hatred for his fellow Jews. Yeah, that’s right, his fellow Jews. The idiot is a self-loather that wants to annihilate his own people, thinking Judaism is a sickness. He comes to several meetings of like-minded (in theory) uber right-wingers, openly yearning for a return to the days of Nazi Germany. I can’t decide if he needs a beating or a tinfoil hat, but he sees Zionist hands at work in everything. I don’t know what Danny is looking for, and I don’t think he does either, but he seems to think he’ll find it by running with other skinhead and neo-Nazi thugs.
No, I have no idea.
The scary things are the facts that this based on a true story, and that if you could knock the insane “Eternal Jew” crap out of his head, Danny’s mind as depicted here, however warped it may be now, at one time was profound. In one flashback early in the movie we see him as a young boy, arguing with his rabbi about the story of Abraham and Isaac, and the kid holds up his end of the discussion (though his tact levels are kind of lacking, even then). The target practice scene was pathetic and frightening, and Theresa Russell was unsettling as a mix between a latter-day Else Koch wannabe and a Talbots model. (Summer Phoenix was just annoying and plain weird as her daughter.) It manages to be both deep and just pretentious, and yet it’s still kind of shallow, because we never really get to see what makes Danny tick. The wobbly direction doesn’t help things, which is a shame, because this could have been an amazing piece of work in different hands.
Two chocolate morsels. It was okay, but American History X was more of a kick in the teeth, and in my opinion better made.