The best scene doesn't advance the plot. It accomplishes something better: It captures interesting behavior. With his addict mother away for an undetermined length of time, 11-year-old Woody, played by the super-talented Michael Rainey Jr., is being squired around Baltimore one eventful day by Uncle Vincent. At one point they're in the home of an underworld kingpin, whom the actor Dennis Haysbert makes a smooth criminal indeed. They're eating crabs, along with Mr. Big's duplicitous brother (Danny Glover), and it's young Woody's first time. As the men school the boy in the proper method of pounding and cracking, this tense scene tells us all we need to know about a preteen's desire to impress some dubious father figures.
The rest of "LUV" (no relation to Murray Schisgal's play, or movie) beams on and off, slipping in some effective exchanges and details while the larger story settles for the familiar, and then the improbable.
"LUV" may not convince with Woody's aggressively telescoped transformation. But the actors compensate. Common, clearly, relishes the chance to play a complicated, flawed man of the streets, and director Candis encourages a looseness and spontaneity in the ensemble atmosphere.
Premiering a year ago at the Sundance festival, "LUV" may take one too many shortcuts en route to its finale, and the synthesizer score by Nuno Malo saps the life out of some scenes. Candis, however, displays talent extending beyond his ability to attract the right actors.