Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

Part ‘Roll Bounce’ mixed in with a little of ‘The Wood’ comes ATL, a generic teen love story / comedy / drama saved by genuine charming performances and some very good humor.


Southern hip-hop star Tip ‘T.I.’ Harris plays Rashad, an earnest, hard working high school senior trying desperately to keep his precocious little brother on a straight path, and maintain the household after the of their parents untimely deaths a few years back (as opposed to a ‘timely’ death).  He is ‘assisted’ in this task by his lazy uncle George (Mykelti Williamson) who is also the boys’ legal guardian.  He also has three best friends, the upwardly mobile, Ivy league bound Esquire (Jackie Long), The New York Knick loving, Big Apple based Brooklyn (Albert Daniels) and the ghetto fabulous, gold teeth sporting Teddy (Jason Weaver).  Together they hang out at the diner, holler at the honeys, and practice their skating routines at the roller rink.  When Rashad meets the super cute but super ghettofied New New, his life is starting to finally look up.  But alas, New New has a big secret, and pile onto that his brother Ant (Evan Ross Naess) is starting to do some work for local dope dealer Marcus (Big Boi from the super group Outkast) and things start to fall apart all around Rashad. 

The ATL (that’s short for Atlanta for those aren’t as Crunk as myself) doesn’t have an original plotline in is ninety minute body.  Written by Antwone Fisher who wrote, well… ‘Antwone Fisher’, and directed by newcomer Chris Robinson the ATL is riddled with cliché’s, stereotypes and tired threads that have been done a thousand times before and better.  But what the ATL lacks in originality it more than makes up

for it in reality.  Sometimes you’ll sit back and watch a film and observe through the dialog that nobody could possibly speak that way.  The ATL’s dynamic lies in the easy charm of its star, Tip Harris, and the relationships of those around him.  There is a natural flow and genuine warmth in the way the characters relate to one another.  When the four friends take playful jabs at each other while at the local snack shack or at the public pool, you never get the feeling that any of their actions are forced or contrived.  You can tell that these conversations and situations have happened before, probably involving these same young men as they pull it off so effortlessly.  Even Big Boi, who is given woefully little screen time, handles the character of Marcus with the ease and mischievousness of a corner numbers runner as opposed to an unrealistic personification of Scarface or Don Corleone.  Where else but the dirty south can a drug dealer brutalize someone for stealing his money then warn them in next breath not to tell his mother.


Similar to Memphis in ‘Hustle and Flow’, Atlanta becomes a character in the film, so hot and sticky you practically need a fan to watch.  When Uncle George downs a glass of lemonade that you know has way too much sugar in it, you almost wish he would pass a glass through the screen to you. 

Not a great movie by any stretch in terms of plot and structure, but given life from it’s characters and performance, the ATL gets a shaky recommendation from this reviewer, hoping see these great characters wind up somewhere in a better film.

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