Sunday, March 6, 2016

The Bus Is Coming (1971)

If good intentions were reason enough to praise a film, The Bus Is Coming would be considered a noteworthy artifact of the blaxploitation era. A feel-good riff on the Black Panther Party, this picture envisions an alternate reality in which a violent uprising by oppressed African-Americans leads to positive social change once the white power structure learns the error of its ways. As if. Clumsily written, weakly acted, and laden with a silly central metaphor, The Bus Is Coming simply doesn’t work as a film experience, which is a shame. While similar films from the same era tended toward apocalyptic vibes, notably Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song (1971) and The Spook Who Sat by the Door (1973), there was room in the conversation for a Black Power film blending optimism with radicalism. Anyway, the story begins with soldier Billy Mitchell (Mike Simms) returning from Vietnam to Los Angeles so he can attend the funeral of his brother, Joe, a community organizer who was killed during an altercation with police officers. Black Panther-type activists who worked with Joe believe he was deliberately murdered, so they begin arming themselves for a revolution. Hesitant to accept a conspiracy theory without corroboration, Mike investigates the situation and discovers that the racist cops who killed Joe are outliers within an otherwise socially responsible law-enforcement organization. In a weak attempt at irony, the filmmakers also demonstrate that one of the racist cops has a black female lover—because, see, he’s fucking the African-American community in more ways than one. Set to an oppressive, horn-driven jazz score, The Bus Is Coming lumbers from one terribly acted scene to the next, never building a head of narrative steam. As for the aforementioned central metaphor, two characters literally wait for a bus, which represents social change. Heavy, man. All in all, The Bus Is Coming is the most frustrating sort of bad movie, a well-meaning effort hobbled by wall-to-wall amateurism.

The Bus Is Coming: LAME

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