Film Review: Common Delivers Best Work to Date in Problematic ‘LUV’

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CHICAGO – Assigned the role of World’s Worst Father Figure, Common delivers a performance so compelling that it nearly makes Sheldon Candis’ blood-soaked odyssey worth the trip. Nearly, however, is the key word. For all of it merits, this picture derails into a ditch of heavy-handed implausibility at the precise moment when it should be soaring. Oscarman rating: 2.5/5.0
Rating: 2.5/5.0

One of the recurring images in “LUV,” which is memorably etched in its poster art, is the back of a child’s head as it looks off into a blurred universe that it can’t fully comprehend. Much of the tangled, murky plot is viewed from the perspective of this 11-year-old boy, Woody (Michael Rainey Jr.), who shares the audience’s confusion at the mounting danger that threatens to engulf him entirely. Candis’ vision of Baltimore is intensely claustrophobic, with houses uneasily wedged against one another, confining the desperate protagonists like rats in a maze.

StarRead Matt Fagerholm’s full review of “LUV” in our reviews section.

With his drug-addicted mother supposedly recovering at a rehab clinic in North Carolina, Woody longs for a parental substitute. It’s with great misfortune that Woody’s Uncle Vincent (Common) has finished serving an eight year prison sentence just in time to take advantage of his nephew’s naïveté. Vincent is a reprehensible man, but it’s his flawed pursuit of redemption coupled with Common’s effortless charisma that makes him so transfixing. When Woody exudes nervousness after being ogled by one of his adoring female classmates, Vincent becomes enraged and vows to make a man out of him before the day is done. And thus begins a very long day—and even longer night—for this unlikely duo, as they encounter a series of foreboding faces, many of them concealing devious intentions. All Vincent want to do is revise his shameful legacy by opening a crab shack restaurant at a foreclosed warehouse property. There’s little surprise when he’s denied the loan, thus forcing him to revert back to his illegal methods of raising the money. What’s unforgivable is how he strings the boy along on these increasingly dangerous misadventures, while giving him half-baked lessons in driving cars and firing guns. After a particularly monstrous tirade, Vincent tearfully confesses that Woody is the only person left in the world that he can trust. Word of advice to all street hustlers: if your sole trustworthy partner-in-crime is an 11-year-old with a shaky trigger finger, it’s probably time to hang it up.

LUV’ stars Common, Michael Rainey Jr., Dennis Haysbert, Danny Glover, Charles S. Dutton, Meagan Good, Lonette McKee, Michael Kenneth Williams and Russell Hornsby. It was written by Sheldon Candis and Justin Wilson and directed by Sheldon Candis. It opened January 18th at AMC River East 21. It is rated R.

StarContinue reading for Matt Fagerholm’s full “LUV” review.

Danny Glover and Common star in Sheldon Candis’ LUV.
Danny Glover and Common star in Sheldon Candis’ LUV.
Photo credit: Indomina Releasing

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