‘LUV’ is raw, profane, violent… and good

Michael Rainey Jr. and Common in 'LUV'
Michael Rainey Jr. and Common in ‘LUV’

LUV stars rapper Common as “Vincent”, an ex-convict who is now living with his mother and nephew in Mom’s house.  Word on the street is that he gained early parole for “ratting out” some of his former criminal associates.  And he has no plans to return to his former life, instead planning to borrow a large sum of money from a bank to open a crab shack.  The idea of opening yet another large crab shack in Baltimore speaks for itself when it comes to bad business models.

Vincent, in his best suit, is on his way to the bank to discuss the loan.  But first he has to drop his nephew “Woody” (Michael Rainey Jr.) at school.  Woody is 11 and bright, although a bit shy.  Vincent decides not to let Woody go to school, choosing instead to take him along for the day and showing him how “business is done”.

There’s a problem at the bank.  Turns out that the first mortgage on Mom’s house is delinquent and the bank won’t do a second until the first is brought current.  That will cost more than $20,000 that Vincent doesn’t have.  There might be a source for the money.  “Mr. Fish” (Dennis Haysbert) was and is the leader of the criminal enterprise that Vincent once worked for.  Fish is willing to discuss loaning Vincent the money, but only if he does him a favor.   Vincent doesn’t want to do this but he has no choice.  Meanwhile, Woody is having fun.  He got a new suit.  He got to drive his uncle’s car.  He’s not in school.  So far it’s been a good day.  But there are rough moments ahead, for both Vincent and Woody.

Danny Glover and Common in 'LUV'
Danny Glover and Common in ‘LUV’

LUV is raw.  LUV is profane.  LUV is violent.  But most of all, LUV is a search for redemption and whether or not Vincent will find it is the crucial issue.  Woody’s experiences with his uncle are a coming of age storyline, and an interesting one.  It’s one of the good things about this film.  Another is the fine performance Common gives.  Haysbert is good in everything and in a smaller role Danny Glover shows he still has ‘chops’.  The epithet-filled dialogue is crisp and not over-done as some inner-city dramas are written.

But there are bad things about this film, too.  Be warned there are some minor spoilers ahead.

The music chosen to backdrop certain moments in the film just doesn’t work as well as some other music would have.  A grown man would not give his 11-year-old nephew a gun, let him fire it once, and then expect the boy to ‘watch his back’ during a delivery.  Other elements of the plot are plausible but do stretch the limit of believability.

LUV is not a bad movie.  It is a good movie.  It just isn’t a great movie.

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