ATL opens with the credits rolling alongside T.I.’s ride home through Atlanta. Every landmark except the famed Varsity is shown, but ATL residents know enough more about the famous burger joint than a picture could show. Previews for the film make it seem as though it will be another convoluted, gangster rapper trying to be hard for the camera, but actually the film strikes an emotional chord with the viewer.
Adolescence is when our real life experiences begin. Sex, drugs, freedom, and the questions of what to do with rest of one’s life shape the adults we become. This film cuts to the marrow of life choices, and no matter the neighborhood, these questions arise and ATL attempts to illustrate some through the eyes of a few young men.
Part Boyz in tha Hood part Friday, the film is a coming of age story for Rashad, (TIP Harris) a 17 year old from Mechanicsville, Georgia. Rashad has had to be the man of his house as a result of the death of his parents years earlier. His Uncle George (Mykelti Williamson) owns a janitorial service and Rashad and his younger brother Ant (Evan Ross) both spend the evenings of their youth scrubbing the floors of white collar Atlanta. Escape is a need that all young people feel. They seek it away from their parents eyes, away from the troubles of their days. For Rashad, escape is Cascades, a skating rink where all the hot girls and all the hot boys go every Sunday night to see what life will bring them.
He is one of the best skaters there and he and his boys comprise “The Ones,” a skating team looking to capture the title again this year. Ant on the otherhand, is looking for a different kind of escape. Ant sees the other kids his age with money and jewelry and girls, and he wants to escape the life of the Trap. Ant meets Marcus (Andre Patton, aka Big Boi of Outkast) the main drug dealer in the hood and soon begins slanging for the devil. Ignorance is what the film strives to expose. By selling drugs, you are creating the Trap. A life of crime is only a life of pain and that is the emotional thred that sows the film together.
Rashad’s friends illlustrate the problems that arise with money and social classes. A road splits for those who live in the hood, and you must either stay or go. All want to leave, but few get out and once gone, it is easy to forget where you come from. That is a dilemna that faces those who make the leap. Rashad’s best friend Esquire (Jackie Brown) is an honor-roll private school student who dreams going to the Ivy League, and meets an afluent black business man, John Garnett (Keith David) who has done exacly that. They both must decide which side of teh fence they are on , as does Garnett’s daughter, New-New.
Rashad meets New-New (Lauren London) and while falling in love, New-New hides that she is Garnett’s daughter, a girl who is rich but moonlights in the forbidden slums. Rashad has to face the lies, the truth of his heart and deal with keeping his brother alive and out of trouble. Growing up real and in the ATL is not easy, but where is it? Everyonce in a while, whether it is at Cascades or any road in America, you just have to roll with it.
The acting in the film is surprisingly good, especially T.I. and Lauren London , who both made their debuts. Unlike many rapper-led films, this picture is entirely serious, always sticking to the real life issues at hand. Crisp and creative camerawork from Crash and director Chris Robinson, who both worked in music videos prior to this, their feature debut, keeps the film picturesqe and with just enough dirt and grit to enfore the reality of the scene. Antwone Fisher wrote the screenplay for the film Antwone Fisher and has delivered another success with ATL.
The film carries a heavy soundtrack and it’s use in the film is critical, especially for the skating scenes. Considering the film had a cast full of first timers and a couple of music video converts behind the scenes, it is a seven out of ten and definitely worth seeing. Fans of films like Belly, Friday, Boyz in tha Hood and any movie about coming up will be pleased with this taste of the south.
There are innumerable such films to try out for which will give you a sense of thrill and excitement that only a three hour long action movie, with a good dose of comedy and romance, can give you. While theatre can be a hotspot, most people complain about the splitting headache that they get in the bargain so its best to log onto gomovies to watch them at home for free.