The Believer * * * 1/2
Director: Henry Bean.
Screenplay: Henry Bean.
Starring: Ryan Gosling, Summer Phoenix, Billy Zane, Theresa Russell, Glenn Fitzgerald, Ronald Guttman, Henry Bean.
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.