What begins as a promising peek into the tragic cycle of waylaid promise that's crippling broken inner-city families is itself dispiritingly pulled sideways in the Baltimore-set indie "LUV."
When temporarily mom-less 11-year-old Woody (Michael Rainey Jr.) spends a day with his recently paroled Uncle Vincent (Common) as he tries to get a loan to set up his own business, the uncle's notions of manhood by example become distorted as his criminal past quickly intervenes.
The problem is that co-writer-director Sheldon Candis' all-in-a-day construct -- the leap from a cheery morning visit to the bank to Woody being enlisted in a role-playing confrontation with gang members that night -- is hard to swallow.
Rainey and Common are good enough in quieter moments exploring the queasy ground between an ex-con's edgy humiliation and a boy's desire for a father figure. But the clichéd scenes of explosive violence – a far cry from how "The Wire" handled the nexus between children and gang life -- do little to strengthen the movie's themes.