get on case

Get on the Bus

Get on the Bus is a 1996 film about a group of African-American men who are taking a cross-country bus trip in order to participate in the Million Man March. The film was directed by Spike Lee and premiered on the one-year anniversary of the march.



The trip begins in Los Angeles, California and ends in Washington, D.C. where the March is being held.

Along the way, the men get to know each other and discuss various topics including their personal lives, their political beliefs and even the O.J. Simpson murder case (in which some members of the group share the notion that, even if Simpson was guilty, which they maintain he wasn't, it was right of him to be acquitted as "payback" for societal racism). The elderly Jeremiah (whom the men nickname "Pop") reveals that after he lost his job, he became an alcoholic and eventually lost his family. He hopes the March will revitalize him and inspire him to turn his life around. Evan Jr., who fancies himself as a gangster named 'Smooth', manages to escape from his father at one point. Evan Sr. finds Junior and realizes that Junior's criminal behavior was an attempt to gain his attention after he became neglectful. He expresses regret and promises to make a sincere effort to be there for Junior.

Xavier, who refers to himself as "X", begins interviewing the passengers, a narrative device which allows each of the passengers to reveal information about their lives and how they perceive themselves and the March.

Tensions rise after Xavier's interview with Flip, an aspiring actor who spends most of his time bragging about his own sexual prowess, and who seems more concerned with getting a film role opposite Denzel Washington than the purpose of the March. Flip reveals himself to be a homophobe and racist, provoking Kyle and Randall for being homosexuals and Gary for being biracial. This leads to further conflict when Gary reveals that he is a police officer working a beat in South Central Los Angeles, two things for which he has faced criticism and ostracization from other blacks his entire life. Gary proudly recalls his father, a black policeman gunned down in the line of duty by black street gang members, an incident that Gary credits with his decision to become a police officer.

Gary's revelations about his life and career spur Jamal to reveal that he is an ex-Crip who converted to Islam and began work with a community outreach program that works with children to discourage them from becoming involved in gang activity. In a tense conversation, the two debate over the causes of gang violence and the limits of repentance and forgiveness: Jamal confesses that, while he a Crip, he committed murder and rape, crimes for which he was never arrested or punished. Following Jamal's confession, Gary informs him that he will be arrested upon their return to California. Xavier captures as much as he can on his camcorder but the group often dismisses the earnest amateur filmmaker as "Spike Lee Jr." Next Kyle reveals that he is a Gulf War veteran who was purposely shot by his own platoon because of his race and sexual orientation. Being gay, African-American and Republican, he feels persecution from all sides, which has made him bitter. Although they are having problems in their relationship, Randall, tries to comfort his lover but makes a point of outing Kyle when he refuses to talk. Kyle is harassed further by the homophobic Flip who mocks him claiming "Oh my God, a gay black Republican, now I have seen everything!" with additional homophobic statements rants. Flip also picks on Randall for his effete gay mannerisms following Kyle's outing. A heated argument between Flip and Kyle turns violent when Flip punches Kyle. In the resulting fistfight, Kyle is victorious and Flip is embarrassed.

During the trip the bus breaks down and the group board a new bus. The new driver is Rick (Richard Belzer), who is ethnically Jewish. Eventually, he feels the need to speak out against Louis Farrakhan's Anti-Semitic statements that Jews are a "gutter" people. Rick talks about his parents' and other Jews' participation in the Civil Rights Movement, but some members of the group fight back using Jewish stereotypes. At a rest stop, Rick quits the trip in protest telling George: "I wouldn't expect you to drive a bus to a Ku Klux Klan meeting." George becomes confrontational and angrily accuses Rick of being a racist for not supporting the march in spite of Farrakhan's remarks, while at the same time refusing to acknowledge that Farrakhan ever made them. Although Rick maintains that he is not a racist, George refuses to accept this; George begrudgingly agrees to disagree with Rick and lets him depart, although he refuses to look at Rick when Rick wants to shake his hand before he leaves. George drives the bus for the rest of the trip, with help from Evan Sr. who, while not licensed a bus driver, has experience driving trucks.

The group meet various people at rest stops including fellow travelers, White American Southerners (who, to the group's surprise, are friendly) and women (with whom Flip tries to flirt). At a diner, the group meets Wendell (Wendell Pierce), a Lexus salesman who bribes his way onto the bus despite pleas from George to travel to the March on his own, since taking on board a passenger without a ticket could potentially jeopardize his job. On the route, Wendell reveals that he is a Republican and his reason for going to the March is to sell cars. He decries blacks who believe that it is the government's responsibility to make their lives better, using successful blacks such as Colin Powell as examples that black men can "make it" in society. His rhetoric quickly becomes racist, however, as he disparages several people on the bus as being "niggers," after which the other passengers literally throw him out of the bus.

While driving through Knoxville, Tennessee, the bus is pulled over by Tennessee state troopers (Randy Quaid in an uncredited cameo). They are stopped on suspicion of drug trafficking and searched with drug-sniffing dogs despite the pleas of Gary who shows his LAPD badge to the troopers.

As the bus approaches Washington, D.C., Xavier discovers Jeremiah slumped over and unconscious in his seat. They rush him to a hospital and watch the beginning of March on television as they await word on Jeremiah. A doctor later informs the group that Jeremiah has died of heart disease. The men are shocked and saddened by Jeremiah's death. They end up watching the rest of the March from the hospital. George tells the men that the March should be seen as merely the beginning of a larger movement. In front of the Lincoln Memorial, George leads the men in a prayer that Jeremiah wrote before his death.

Additional cast

External links

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