ATL Chris Robinson

I wouldn’t suggest that this film has much new to say but it manages to be fresh and surprising in the way that it says it. The subject is growing up black and poor in Atlanta, where Rashad Brown (rapper Tip "T.I.” Harris) is enduring his last days in high school; he doesn’t have much to which he can look forward to (unless you count cleaning up at the Value Village) and basically lives for the highly skilled roller-skating he undertakes at the local rink. Then he meets New New (Lauren London) and thinks he has shelter from the storm, before, that is, he discovers the lie that nearly breaks them up. The film rings a few familiar bells about the wacky group of friends, the dead-end jobs and the temptations of dealing, with OutKast’s Big Boi as a "smiler with the knife” drug lord, but video director Chris Robinson manages to minimise the melodrama and maximise the environment. Like a lot of video directors, he’s got style to burn and may cause retinal damage with DP Crash’s ultra-vibrant colours. Still, it’s an interesting assignment for a child of video to make and he manages to offer unusual editing decisions and nice touches, like setting a street robbery to "Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child.” He also puts the brakes on the ultra-broad roles black actors are often forced into playing and gives his common tropes a gravity they might otherwise have lacked. This is by no means a masterpiece, and it wraps things up a little too neatly, but it’s still worth checking out to see how a clever director can deepen an average script. Extras include a lengthy, slightly maudlin "making of” featurette, a video for T.I.’s "What You Know” and six deleted scenes. (Warner)