Sundance review: "LUV"
Published: January 23, 2012 08:12PM
Updated: January 25, 2012 02:43PM
Michael Rainey Jr. (left) and Common star in the drama "LUV," screening in the U.S. Dramatic competition at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival. (Photo by Bill Gray | Courtesy Sundance Institute)


U.S. Dramatic

*** (three stars)

A kid gets a quick education on the mean streets of Baltimore, in director Sheldon Candis' atmospheric drama. Eleven-year-old Woody (Michael Rainey Jr.) worships his super-cool uncle Vincent (played by the rapper Common), so he is thrilled when Uncle Vincent takes him out of school for a day to teach him how to be a man. What Woody sees is Vincent hustling to get money to start a new business, and crossing paths with drug dealers and two mobster brothers (Dennis Haysbert and Danny Glover) who doubt Vincent's loyalty. Candis and his co-writer, Justin Wilson, create strong characters, particularly in the emotional push-and-pull between the increasingly desperate Vincent and the fast-learning Woody. The plot stalls in a few places, but the depiction of rough-and-tumble Baltimore is satisfyingly gritty.

-- Sean P. Means

“LUV” screens again: