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The Believer (2001)

June 17, 2009

6/10 Products of Excessive Teenage Angst

Really didn’t know what I was getting into when I put this bad boy on my Netflix queue. In hindsight, I probably should have.

The Believer follows a twenty-something Jewish skinhead living in New York who is struggling to inwardly justify his anti-Semitic beliefs to himself by serving as the spokesperson for an up-and-coming fascist movement led by Billy Zane, of course. And the laughs just keep on coming.

The closest thing I can compare this movie to is American History X, a great movie that also revolves around individuals dealing with anti-Semitism. I’d always thought that American History X was a pretty tough movie, but man, it’s got nothing on The Believer.

I’m not Jewish, so I don’t know how I would take this movie if I was, but even as a Catholic I was pretty unsettled by it. The script, the dialogue, and the plot are all filled with such an overwhelming amount of hate and questionably bad taste that it really makes the whole experience one tough pill to swallow.

There is a kind of ambiguously redeeming value to the story by the movie’s end, but it takes such a surprisingly long time to get any kind of substantial character development in a positive direction that all the negative qualities of the main character just overshadow the potential good in him. When you’re dealing with something as serious as anti-Semitism, hate crimes, and Holocaust denial among other things, keeping that redeeming quality prevalent should be a priority.

The Believer was the launching vehicle for Ryan Gosling, who plays the main character, and he is seriously intense in this. He’s a great actor to begin with, another one of the best actors out there who aren’t getting the real credit they deserve, and this is one of the best things he’s done (next to Half Nelson). The role is no joke and it quickly becomes clear that he’s not screwing around. Good way to make people forget that you used to be in the Mickey Mouse Club.

The Believer won the Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival in 2001, which is kind of a big deal, so there are obviously people out there who are going to disagree with me on this review. And it’s not all bad. It’s got a really taut script that’s executed really well by Gosling and it’s one of the more challenging movies you’re ever going to see, but it’s just such a difficult movie to sit through that I found myself wondering why I was watching it at times.

I’m not saying that you shouldn’t see it, but just know what you’re getting into and I guess try not to take it personally. Yeah, it’s just a movie, but it’s also one of the most unnerving movies I’ve ever watched in my life.

And for the love of God, don’t see this just because you liked Gosling in The Notebook.

Not. A. Chick flick.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. July 22, 2009 12:37 pm

    I felt like this movie would’ve been more compelling but it just felt like a bunch of speeches put together and his reason for becoming a skinhead isn’t very clear. They show scenes of him arguing with his religion teacher about certain beliefs but I don’t think they totally just changed him into becoming a skinhead.

    • Aiden R permalink*
      July 22, 2009 12:59 pm

      I think they did a good job of establishing that he had a kind of inherent resistance towards Judaism as a faith he never chose and didn’t agree with, but my problem was that they didn’t do a very good job of showing that it still really meant something to him. Pretty long-winded movie though, you’re right on that.

  2. May 10, 2012 11:03 pm

    This movie is so pro jew its insane , just Jew supremacy B.S …

    It’s kinda funny though we girl he’s dating catches on to learning hebrew and the calls him on his B.S and says she might just be smarter than him and he just fads away … the other Jew response would be to start foaming at the mouth and begin to screaming anti – semite or troll.

    It’s a interesting movie if watched with a certain perception.

    • May 11, 2012 11:12 am

      I don’t even know how to respond, man. Too much hate going on in that comment.

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