Published Apr 01, 2006The trailer for ATL takes the gangster flick route to entice patrons, selling itself as a hardcore "new American story"; this head-on approach might scare viewers into thinking it's a bullet-riddled parade of stereotypes that rap, brandish guns and sell drugs. In reality, it's a well written, beautifully shot cautionary tale that takes more than one engaging turn.
Rashad (Tip Harris), a high school senior, becomes man of the house when his parents die in a car accident, forcing him to keep a close paternal eye on his little brother, Ant (Evan Ross), a rambunctious teen with an itch for the "ghetto" lifestyle. Unable to see past his own impending graduation, Rashad is forced to make difficult choices when Ant threatens the future of their makeshift family by going to work for a local drug dealer.
ATL takes place in Atlanta's hottest months, making it a perfect summer precursor. The story never loses its footing, as we're introduced to South Atlanta with impressive economy, and sometimes startling beauty. There's an aerial shot of the city that may have you dreaming of a Georgian jaunt, and a choreographed office-cleaning scene that'll have you reconsidering your notions of manual labour. The most impressive aspect of ATL, however, is the script.
Screenwriter Tina Gordon Chism (Drumline) steers clear of genre conventions and maintains the integrity of Rashad's evolution by paying close attention to character, avoiding a finale that could have been an embarrassing kiss of death for the whole film. If you're in the mood for an early summer, visit ATL. It's worth the trip. (Warner)