Office Christmas Party
Another reminder that allowing your cast to madly improvise instead of actually providing a coherent script with a scintilla of inherent logic often leads to…
On a TV news show, the grief-stricken Derek blames his father's death on a laundry list of far-right targets. Later we learn it wasn't just his father's death that shaped him, but his father's dinner table conversation; his father tutors him in racism, but the scene feels like tacked-on motivation, and the movie never convincingly charts Derek's path to race hatred.
The scariest and most convincing scenes are the ones in which we see the skinheads bonding. They're led by Derek's brilliant speechmaking and fueled by drugs, beer, tattoos, heavy metal and the need all insecure people feel to belong to a movement greater than themselves. It is assumed in their world (the beaches and playgrounds of the Venice area of L.A.) that all races stick together and are at undeclared war with all others.
Indeed the race hatred of the skinheads is mirrored (with different words and haircuts) by the other local ethnic groups. Hostile tribalism is an epidemic here.
The film, written by David McKenna and directed by Tony Kaye, uses black and white to show the recent past, and color to show the 24-hour period after Derek is released from prison. In prison, we learn, Derek underwent a slow transition from a white zealot to a loner--a brutal rape helped speed the process. Meanwhile, young Danny and his friends (including a massive guy named Seth, played by Ethan Suplee) wreck a grocery run by immigrants. At school, Danny is a good student, as Derek was before him; both are taught by a black history teacher named Sweeney (Avery Brooks), who supplies the moral center of the film.