STUDIO: Warner Home Video
MSRP: $28.98
RUNNING TIME: 107 minutes
• T.I. What You Know music video
• Additional scenes
In the Rink: A Director’s Journey
• Theatrical trailer

The Pitch

Things are hot in the South, and we ain’t talkin’ ‘bout the weather, shorty.

The Humans

Tip Harris, Lauren London, Antwan Andre Patton, Mykelti Williamson, Keith David, Evan Ross, Jackie Long, Albert Daniels.

DJ: "Okay ya’ll, lets get ready for that Achy Breaky contest…"

The Nutshell

Rashad (Harris) is a high school senior in the Atlanta suburb of Mechanicsville who’s getting ready to graduate and is trying to figure things out for himself. He takes care of his little brother, Ant (Ross) and together they work with their Uncle George (Williamson) as janitors. Rashad spends his time hanging with his boys: Esquire (Long), Brooklyn (Daniels) and Teddy (Weaver). Esquire is a local kid with Ivy League aspirations who works at the local country club, Teddy works at making grills (gold teeth), and Brooklyn is a transplanted New Yorker who bounces from job to job. They mostly hang at the roller skating rink, Cascade, which is the local hot spot where everyone is in preparation to compete a group skating title. Rashad has to deal with Ant, who is gradually being drawn into working for a local drug dealer. Meanwhile, he meets a girl, New New (London), who keeps her personal life a secret. When Rashad discovers that secret, he has to get over the betrayal he feels, not only from her, but one of his boys. Also, when Ant’s hustling fixes to land him in a body bag, Rashad has to help him out of that situation. All the while, Rashad has a modest dream involving the Sunday comics in the newspaper.

"Yo, is that Five-0 comin’ to hassle us for no reason?"
"Looks that way."
"Funny, I ain’t never seen swim trunks with gunbelts and handcuffs before…"

The Lowdown

This is a fairly standard, though well-put-together coming of age tale that manages to skirt many of the clichés of black movies these days. First of all, no one is aspiring to be a rapper, there’s no gang violence, and the cops aren’t out hassling anybody. It’s just a straight tale of growing up in the South, which just happens to be ruling the hip hop world right now, with acts like Outkast, SouthStar, Lil’ Scrappy, Lil Jon, Ludacris and T.I. of course.  There is something involving Ant working for a drug dealer, but it’s a C-story at best and doesn’t take away from the laid back story. Harris is affecting as Rashad, who’s a level-headed cat just trying to graduate and make sure his little brother does the same. He’s slightly reminiscent of Tre in Boyz N The Hood, only without as much shit to deal with. However, whereas Tre was trying desperately to become a man, Rashad seems to have already arrived there awhile ago. Mykelti Williamson and Keith David are also good, as usual.

Suddenly I fell a need to go swimming…

ATL is more a character driven piece than story driven, as there’s no big overall arc driving everyone save for getting out of school and preparing for Cascade’s skating competition. And there are plenty of characters to be sure of. Rounding out the cast are Veda and Star (Malika and Khadijah Haqq), who are ghetto fab twin sisters with a penchant for the five finger discount. Brooklyn is a card who is about trying to hold onto a job and Uncle George is the slacker father figure in Rashad’s and Ant’s lives who meets women through dating services and is most concerned with how much of his cereal his two boys eat. The movie mirrors life in the South, which always seems to be just a bit slower paced than the rest of the country.

"So I guess you’re more of a ocuntry fan, huh?"

I liked it because it didn’t follow the typical story of the main character driving to be something like a rapper (8 Mile) or get out of his hood (Boyz) or make a better life for himself (take your pick). Rashad is kind of an enigma that way in that he’s not the only guy with a clear head on his shoulders surrounded by dumbass friends and an environment of violence, poverty and death. Rashad’s dream of being a cartoonist isn’t the thing he’s working the entire movie for, it’s just a backdrop. He’s just living his life and that’s a nice change. Video director Chris Robinson makes his feature debut nicely and writer Tina Gordon Chism (Drumline) puts together a good story from Antwone Fisher.

"Okay, what would Ben Hogan, Sam Snead or Tom Kite do in this situation?"

The Package

The cover art is cool, but it comes across as a little more gritty than the movie itself actually is. The video and audio are also good. What’s especially good about this film is the soundtrack, which has wall to wall music from such artists as Aaliyah, Ludacris, Field Mob, Purple Ribbon All Stars, Young Jeezy, Youngbloodz, Frankie Beverly and Maze, Slim Thug and Pharrell, Outkast and T.I. There are several features including the nearly 30-minute making of, In The Rink, A Director’s Journey, T.I.’s video for What You Know, five minutes of deleted scenes and the theatrical trailer.

6.9 out of 10