Image Courtesy of Amazon.com
Tip “T.I” Harris……….Rashad Swann
Evan Ross……….Antwone “Ant” Swann
Lauren London……….New New
Mykelti Williamson……….Uncle George
Keith David……….John Garnett
Lonette McKee……….Priscilla Garnett
While Hollywood has lately been accused of intellectual and creative bankruptcy in most areas, the one area in which it is at least trying something experimental and new is in the area of urban comedies. Delicately mixing the mainstream success of rap and hip hop with parables about growing up poor and making the right decisions in life, films like Roll Bounce and the Tyler Perry film franchise are going after a demographic that hasn’t been targeted this vigorously since the 1980s: African Americans between 15 and 40.
In ATL the setting is Atlanta, Georgia, and revolves around two brothers and the uncle that’s raising them. Rashad (Tip Harris) is a graduating high school senior, working with his Uncle George (Mykelti Williamson) in their cleaning business. Born on the wrong side of the tracks, everyone dreams of a better life while working on the lives they already have. Trying to be a good older sibling to his little brother Antwone (Evan Ross), Rashad and his friends Esquire, Teddy and Brooklyn have little time remaining before they embark on their lives after high school. Esquire (Jackie Long) is an educated, eloquent gentleman looking to better himself in the mold of CEO John Garnett (Keith David). Teddy (Jason Weaver) is at the long end of an educational road, looking to finish it up while Brooklyn (Albert Daniels) is always in search of a job he can tolerate enough to stay at longer than a few weeks. Antwone, however, has his eyes filled by the promise of riches from the drug-dealing business. The film follows their last few months in high school as they prepare for enter the real world, mixing in hip hop and roller skating along the way.
And while it is refreshingly original in a way, the film suffers from the fact that its cast is there more for looks than they are for being able to play their part. Harris looks like the part of an older brother, for example, but he’s not very good at it. This characterization seems appropriate for the good chunk of the cast outside of David, who seems to be good in any supporting role he’s provided, and the film suffers a lot because the cast is made up of relative newcomers. It gives the film the look of something done by a mid-level film school student as opposed to a motion picture studio.
The film isn’t written or directed tightly enough to overcome this basic necessity, but its hard to fault Chris Robinson for it. While the basic story line has promise, the specifics have an amateurish look and feel to them. Robinson is in his directorial debut and the former music video director has his hands full with the film. He can make the film look pretty, as the cinematography and editing work is terrific, but the ability to tell a definite story is lacking throughout the film. Robinson has an idea of what he wants to do but the film’s script is poorly written, a hamper for a newcomer to the director’s chair of a major motion picture. While he’s not out of his league, as he does a lot of the little things correctly that “better” directors don’t do well, the lack of an experienced cast and a tighter script dampens the things he does well.
Presented in a widescreen format with a 2.35:1 aspect ratio, ATL has a top notch transfer. For a film that isn’t very good but has superior camerawork the DVD translates the theatrical experience to the small screen superbly.
Presented in a Dolby 5.1 surround sound format, the film’s hip hop soundtrack and dialogue driven plot come through clearly and well-separated.
In the Rink: A Director’s Journey is a featurette that focuses on Robinson’s journey in making the film. Wanting to incorporate the city into the film, Robinson narrates the story about the film’s production. It’s interesting to hear Robinson speak of the film as he doesn’t try and do the EPK type of glowing about the film but talks frankly about the film. Robinson had previously directed Harris in music videos and wanted a “fresh” cast, as opposed to having more experienced and more known actors in the film.
Deleted Scenes are included and, as always, it’s pretty obvious why they were cut. While mostly short and innocuous, they are cut for good reason as they don’t serve the film’s plot well enough to have been stuck inside it.
T.I. “What You Know” music video
|InsidePulse’s Ratings for ATL
||RATING(OUT OF 10)
||5(NOT AN AVERAGE)|