An outlandishly eventful 24 hours unfolds from the point of view of Woody (the impressive Michael Rainey Jr.), an 11 year old boy growing up in Baltimore under his grandmother's watchful eye. His dapper Uncle Vincent (Common) offers to drive Woody to school one day, then impulsively changes his mind to bring the boy along on his day's big errands. Vincent wants to teach Woody how to be a man, which involves wearing a tailored suit, cracking crab shells, making eye contact while shaking hands, learning to drive a car and firing a gun.
The latter lessons prove unexpectedly important as Vincent's big plans fall to pieces. A former gang-member recently released from prison under mysterious circumstances, Vincent dedicates himself to opening a legitimate restaurant business and rise above his criminal background. We realize that Vincent isn't just trying to be a role model for his nephew, but reinvent himself as a respectable white-collar deal-maker. When a bank loan proves unexpectedly precarious, Vincent becomes drawn back into the orbit of his old accomplices, and brings the middle-schooler along for the ride.
LUV takes the duo on a kind of odyssey up and down Baltimore's social ladder, with meetings ranging from skeptical bank officers (Clark Johnson) to homicidal street thugs with names like "Lil Baby" (Hayward Armstrong). Once you realize that most of the supporting players will be ace African-American actors in tightly-written scenes, you eagerly anticipate who'll turn up next: Charles Dutton! Danny Glover! Omar himself, Michael K. Williams! Dennis Haysbert of "24" provides an excellent turn as an aging crime lord who hides in plain sight in a middle-class neighborhood. Fans of "The Wire" who miss David Simon's epic drama series will find LUV's setting, supporting cast and soft-spoken realism to be particularly gratifying.
Common began his career as a hip-hop artist and has primarily appeared in crime-related films and television shows, but reveals some serious acting chops here, conveying Vincent's complicated mix of anxiety, pride and affection for his nephew. Rainey holds his own even when LUV moves in some preposterous directions, and almost single-handedly redeems the film's most problematic creative choice.
Despite the film's naturalistic setting, 11 year-old Woody's ability to step into roles like "getaway driver" become increasingly hard to accept, to the point of unintended comedy. One can take it on faith that Candis and company cast such as young-looking actor to make a point about the loss of innocence and the corruptibility of youth in the urban criminal life. But admiral, intangible themes can't counterbalance the images before your eyes, and LUV's twists undermine the film's credibility. Then again, the young actor acquits himself well enough that perhaps Woody could prevail in the script's fraught, high-pressure situations. LUV draws on such a deep pool of talent and succeeds in so many areas that it deserves discovery by a wider audience. Don't let the sweet-sounding title give you the wrong impression.
LUV. 3 stars. Directed by Sheldon Candis. Stars Common, Michael Rainey Jr. Rated R. Opens Fri., Jan. 18. At AMC Stonecrest, AMC Southlake and AMC Phipps Plaza
yeah, because Grant Park is miles away and isn't a park
""She admitted that she was drinking and driving,' attorney Jackie Patterson told reporters following her…
I thought Ted had "commented" on the development shortly after it happened, although the response…
My cat thinks he's a mountain lion.
Fulton County State Court Judge Susan Edlein was a litigation partner at Holland & Knight…
The Coming Medicaid Cost Explosion http://bit.ly/glp4mz