During spring break, I got the chance to see ATL and was pleasantly surprised. As I took my seat in the theater and sat through all the previews, I expected to see a typical thug-life film filled with shootings and killings. But what I saw was a surprisingly exceptional, coming-of-age story about four teenagers growing up in Atlanta.
Rapper T.I. could easily have played the typical role of a drug-dealing, struggling-to-survive hustler in his debut movie. Instead, the rapper took his role a step further than most rappers do in their premiere movies. He plays the role of Rashad, a high-schooler who coming of age in Atlanta, T.I.’s hometown.
ATL takes place in the summer, and focuses on the lives of Rashad, "Ant" (Rashad’s brother) and Rashad’s friends Teddy, Esquire, Brooklyn and "New-New". Rashad spends his summer hanging out at the local skating rink (the kicking-it spot for teens), and trying to keep his brother Ant out of trouble and away from Marcus, the neighborhood hustler (played by Big Boi, who also gives a wonderful performance).
The most refreshing thing about the movie is the portrayal of the life in this Atlanta ‘hood. Too many times in the past, the portrayal of the ‘hood in movies is a one-sided view of nothing but pimps, gangs, shootings and death.
ATL shows an accurate look at teenagers, growing up, having fun and just trying to find their way in life, like any other teenager in America.
Even more importantly, ATL shows that not every young Black man in the ‘hood turns to drug dealing. Rashad saves the money he earns doing janitorial work. Brooklyn does what a lot of us did in high school – move from one fast-food job we hated to another equally bad job. And Esquire works at a golf club with aspirations for bigger and better things.
If you are a big fan of movies where rappers just play themselves and a lot of violence is shown, and with plots that don’t have a point, ATL is not the movie for you. But if you, like me, want to see a refreshing movie with a rapper who actually acts, go see ATL. It was worth my $7.