Growing up in the dope trade.

LUV — that’s right, solid caps, like all too many online rants — is an attempt to do something new in the field of boyz-n-the-hood relationship dramas. That is, director Sheldon Candis (he wrote the screenplay with Justin Wilson) gives us warm moments of male bonding between eleven-year-old Woody (Michael Rainey Jr.) and his Uncle Vincent (rapper Common), a newly released convict, without sacrificing the bloody action we expect from any scenario involving inner-city drug dealing.

The ex-offender and the kid strike up a convincing friendship as they get to know each other. But they don’t go to the zoo and drink chocolate milkshakes. Uncle Vincent has a solid business plan to rehab a waterfront warehouse and start a restaurant and club. He visits a bank loan officer with his lil’ nephew, both of them in sharp suits, but Vincent’s fake ID and lack of cake ensure that he’ll have to make that Last Dope Deal in order to secure the start-up money. He takes Woody along to teach him to be a man. Big mistake. Matters deteriorate from there.

The violence is not especially graphic — Candis frames out and cuts away from the most brutal shots. Common is strictly believable, juvie Rainey Jr. slightly less so, but then he’s just a pee-wee. Dennis Haysbert and Danny Glover show up as everyone’s favorite old dope-trafficking, back-stabbing Baltimore uncles. Actor Sammi Rotibi, from Django Unchained, is good as a Nigerian thug. The cracked crab looks delicious. Give LUV a B- for effort.


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