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It's something akin to the earlier films of Spike Lee -- She's Gotta Have It and Crooklyn come to mind -- in that the characters are cherished for their human qualities, not for how well they swagger onto the screen.
A tip of the cap to Tip Harris and Lauren London for it is their chemistry and charm which allows one to believe in their tenderhearted romance in an atmosphere where women are regarded as objects and affectionately called 'bitches' and 'hos.'
For a run-of-the-mill hip-hop drama, ATL has some engaging hooks that set it apart from the predictable formula of urban youth struggling to steer clear of crime and pull themselves up to a better life.