There's something about a black man in uniform. Security-guard white, prison blues or UPS brown, 'nuff brothers move through life in team colours. Back home in Barbados I could have lived in uniform from grade school to death.But it's in the American South that black uniformity hits its peak. Add up the numbers in bondage to the military, the police, the prison system, the service industry and the sports-entertainment complex -- not just athletes, but backup singers -- and it's clear that life in uniform is the African-American norm.
Which makes Drumline so much more interesting.
Engineered as a rousing B-movie about a New York rebel who joins a disciplined Georgia marching band, Drumline follows a well-worn path. Devon (Nick Cannon) wins a music scholarship to Atlanta A&T. His raw talent gets him a spot in the drum line of the college's 300-strong marching band, but the bandleader (Orlando Jones) is a music-snob taskmaster, so Devon has to learn to be a team player. The incentives are respect and his new middle-class girlfriend (Zoe Saldana).
Drumline, like Maid In Manhattan and the upcoming Denzel Washington movie, Antwone Fisher, uses uniformed service as a staging ground for the social conflicts of black, Hispanic and immigrant Americans. These movies push a message of personal discipline as a means to group harmony even as they pull out the more typical Hollywood theme of individual ambition. It's a fascinating dance.
Drumline's plot is predictable, but it's still a thrill to watch the A&T band go up against their pimp-styling rivals in the final stadium throwdown. Director Charles Stone III packs the clash with virtuoso musicianship, hiphop attitude and showbiz highs. Six hundred brothers and sisters in uniform, marching, macking and dropping science. Like email@example.com
DRUMLINE directed by Charles Stone III, written by Tina Gordon Chism and Shawn Schepps, produced by Wendy Finerman, Timothy M. Bourne and Jody Gerson, with Nick Cannon, Zoe Saldana, Orlando Jones and Leonard Roberts. A Fox 2000 production. A Twentieth Century Fox release. Opens Friday (December 13). For venues and times, see First-Run Movies, page 85. Rating: NNN