I saw LUV when The Sundance Film Festival came to London in April, partly because the film I really wanted to see was sold out and because it was starring Common; having been disappointed with his wooden performance along side Queen Latifah in 2010’s Just Wright I thought it was about time that I gave him a second chance!
According to the director, Sheldon Candis, LUV is a fable about a young boy’s admiration of his uncle, it partly deals with what Woody (Michael Rainy Jnr), the young boy, wants to see in the world rather than what is really there. As we follow Woody and his uncle Vincent (Common), who has recently come out of prison, around Baltimore for twenty-four hours it becomes clear that behind Vincent’s sharp suit and swanky car lies a desperate and tainted man.
There are some excellent African American actors in this film, Danny Glover and Dennis Haysbert make appearances as Vincent’s former gangland associates and Common is impressive too, but the real stand out performance comes from Rainy, who is utterly absorbing as 11 year old Woody.
The film is semi-biographical in that Candis’s own uncle was a notorious Baltimore drug dealer who used to drive around with a young Candis in the passenger seat to avoid being stopped by the police during drug errands. Originally called Learning Uncle Vincent, Candis decided to shorten the title to an acronym, I asked him about this after the screening and you can watch his response below.
I would definitely recommend this film, not only does it feature some excellent acting and superb cinematography but it also deals with a complicated subject which is often magnified in cinema and on television in a manner that is both original and delicate without compromising on its impact.
I have never sat in a cinema and thought I’d rather be at the dentist before, but this film really did induce filling fantasies! Not because it had anything to do with teeth, but rather because I couldn’t help but wonder which was more painful!
The film begins with Dave Brown (Woody Harrelson) smoking and driving around in his police car, in fact he is sucking on a cigarette in nearly every scene, if tobacco advertising wasn’t illegal there would definitely be lots of opportunities for product placement here. Brown is a self-possessed, deluded and corrupt policeman from LA’s Rampart department, which was found to be riddled with corruption in the 1990s. Brown convinces himself that he is administering justice during his many fracases with unsuspecting criminals. His relationships are all unsuccessful with his eldest daughter amusingly addressing him as ‘Date Rape’, a nickname he obtained after supposedly ridding the streets of bad guys a few years earlier.
Ice Cube makes an appearance as Kyle Timkins who is assigned to investigate the corruption charges against Brown but is not on screen long enough, instead we are forced to endure the twisted exploits of the deranged and unlikable Brown. It’s not that Harrelson’s acting is unconvincing or inadequate, in fact he plays the role very well and has received praise from newspapers such as The Guardian for his performance, it is rather that, unlike similar characters in films like Training Day and Bad Lieutenant, his character does not make enough of an emotional impact for us to care about whether he is brought down by his arrogance or sacrifices himself in repentance. One of the best things for me about seeing this movie was that it only cost £3.50 courtesy of The Coronet Cinema’s discounted ticket prices on a Tuesday!