R (violence, strong language, child endangerment, drug content); 94 min.
Training Day becomes Coming of Age Day in LUV, a violent attempt at grafting two reliable genres together in one somewhat edgy picture.
Rapper-turned-actor Common has one of his best roles as Uncle Vincent, an ex-con still trying for that big score, that "legitimate" business that he'd love to start if only the bank will turn a blind eye to his past and gamble on his future.
He lives with his mom (Lonette McKee), dresses like the businessman he isn't and drives a shiny Mercedes. And on occasion, he pitches in raising his sister's son, Woody (Michael Rainey Jr.), who idolizes him.
Dropping the 11-year-old off at school, Vincent sees how shy Woody is around girls, and decides that even at 11, the boy needs a different sort of schooling, a day of "what it takes to be a man."
He drags the kid around so Woody can Be Like Vincent, from a ridiculously quick trip to Vincent's tailor to the deals his uncle makes to get by -- increasingly violent deals with hoodlums both old-school (Danny Glover, Dennis Haysbert, Charles S. Dutton) and new.
The cast is quite good, and director/co-writer Sheldon Candis does so well with those scenes, dominating LUV's first half, that it's surprising he has so much trouble introducing, bit by bit, Vincent's violent world to Woody.
The absurd turns the story takes to serve up streetwise and bloody "life lessons" for the kid will make any parent blanch -- "child endangerment" is in the MPAA rating. And those same over-the-top twists will make any movie lover roll his or her eyes.
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-- Roger Moore, McClatchy-Tribune News Service