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R: ARCHIVE, S: REVIEWS, D: 10/17/1996,

Get on the Bus

In this metaphorical road trip, director Spike Lee takes a velour seat on a bus bound for the Million Man March in Washington. A reminder of Farrakhan's year-old plea for unity, the film crams in current issues like duffels in a luggage compartment -- black-on-black violence, absentee dads, police brutality, Jewish tensions, black leadership, even O.J.

Lee illuminates the conflicts through a combustible ensemble of passengers, including an estranged father (Thomas Jefferson Byrd) and his teenager (DeAundre Bonds), a devout Muslim (Gabriel Casseus), a cop (Robert Guenveur Smith), an old man (Ossie Davis), a caustic actor (Andre Braugher), a gay couple (Harry Lennix and Isaiah Washington), a film student (Hill Harper), and the affable driver (Charles S. Dutton).

Although a contrived plot and heavy-handed symbolism hobble the story, the film delivers several revealingly funny moments, and it transcends its claustrophobic setting with a fusion of cinéma-vérité, hazy filters, and march footage. Above all, its call to action rings clear. As Hollywood continues to cast blacks to act out the four R's -- rap, rape, rob, and riot -- Lee adds "revitalize" to the list. At the Nickelodeon, the Fresh Pond, and the Circle and in the suburbs.

-- Alicia Potter