Rap movies have com a long way. They have begun to evolve, from glorified music videos, to black cinema (which has come a long way in its own right), on up to a new level of art. Hustle and Flow brought the new style of black film into the limelight, and ATL follows right behind. I was really surprised how much I liked this film. In my line of work, you see a lot of bad films, and you can usually spot them from a mile away. I admit that I was fooled by this one. I was expecting to find another tired tale of a young hustla’ making it big in the hood, but instead I found a genuinely touching film about what happens to four friends when High School is over and the next stage of life has not yet begun.
Now, that’s not to say that the film is perfect. There are still some cliches here, and the scenes at the skating rink are probably a bit too flashy for their own good, but all told, this is an ambitious film that succeeds in much of what it is trying to accomplish.
Also notable is the acting, especially that of Tip “T.I.” Harris. So often with these kinds of movies, musical artists use their star power to sell the film, but they are poor actors when the shoot is complete.
The good news is, the bass is clean. The bad news is, it sounds like the whole soundtrack is being blasted from the trunk of an ’89 Caprice. Levels are all over the place, with dialog dropping down to a near whisper, and music popping up at very high levels. The track is just all over the charts. Ear-splitting one moment, indiscernible the next. The track is clear, and if it was mastered correctly, this would be a much more impressive offering.
While not perfect,this is a very pleasing video transfer overall. Colors look great, and black levels are deep. Daytime scenes look fantastic, and most of the nighttime scenes are sharp as well. Unfortunately, many of the shots in the skating rink have severe edge problems. They also have a bit of a different frame rate, since they were shot with a digital camera instead of a standard film camera. Admittedly, these scenes are full of slick camera tricks anyway, but the edge and clarity problems really pull the viewer out of the experience.
Unfortunately, this disc is pretty light on the extras. In addition to the theatrical trailer and a music video, there is also a selection of deleted scenes included here. They are all pretty short, and they are presented in an unfinished format, with the time cods still stamped across the bottom of the screen.
The main extra is a featurette called In the Rink: A Director’s Journey. While this piece does offer some background on the film, it is really just a reprint of the electronic press kit. The film was surprisingly entertaining and well done. The disc, however, was not.
In an odd sort of way, this film reminded me of a cross between Friday and American Pie. Everything is about to change for these four young men, as they leave high school and begin to forge their own paths into the world. Instead of focusing on sex or gang violence, however, the focus is on the relationships that the group has with each other, and the bonds that they have made through their early adult lives. Due to questionable audio and video and a lack of quality extras, this may or may not be a disc that viewers will want to purchase. There is no reason why you shouldn’t pick it up as a rental, however.
Special Features List
- T.I. “What You Know” music video
- Additional Scenes
- In the Rink: A Director’s Journey
- Theatrical Trailer