“Imma teach you some real-world shit,” ex-felon Vincent (Common) tells his 11-year-old nephew, Woody (Michael Rainey Jr.), as they ride through the streets of Baltimore, thus assuring that everything that follows in Luv will adhere solely to the preposterous plot logic of boyz-to-men crime dramas. Woody, fond of drawing comics and daydreaming about his long-absent mother, is being looked after by his frail granny (Lonette McKee), who has recently welcomed Vincent home after his eight years in jail. Hoping to go straight, the former drug runner has dreams of opening up a crab shack and thinks his nephew would learn more about “how to be a man” by tagging along to his appointments with bank managers and past crime associates (including Charles S. Dutton and Dennis Haysbert, who must have had some time to kill). After the inevitable derailing of Vincent’s business plan, he’s pulled back into one last dope deal, setting in motion a vortex of absurdity that culminates with Woody, a sweet kid who occupies himself with his sketch pad, negotiating with thugs like a half-pint Iceberg Slim. Although Common and Rainey make a well-matched duo, their chemistry is frequently squandered by a script (co-written by director Sheldon Candis and Justin Wilson) that boxes them into impossible roles in one clichéd scene after another.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on January 16, 2013