Even criminals are allowed to fall in love, though crime has a way of mucking all that up. In Danny A. Abeckaser’s I Love Us, a mid-level criminal must pull off that one last job for his new love and her family. Sammy Silver (Danny A. Abeckaser) is a thief who works small-time jobs for his father (Robert Davi) in the hope of finally paying off his gambling debts to mobster Ira Prince (Elya Baskin). After pulling off a successful heist with cohort Richie (James Madio), Sammy makes a quick getaway on a city bus where he meets the love of his life, Laura (Katie Cassidy).
Immediately smitten and not wanting to lose a good thing, Sammy lies about his career to Laura. He soon starts making nice with her teen daughters Audrey (Harlow Jane) and Rachel (Jasper Polish), and before you know it, Sammy and Laura get married. Sammy is, of course, conflicted about hiding his real job and decides he needs to do one big job to free himself from Prince’s debt.
In a quick twist of fate, Laura is killed in a car crash. Sammy is now saddled with the orphaned Audrey and Rachel. Sammy decides to be their father and needs their pot-smoking uncle Rob (Greg Finley) to live with them until the adoption process is complete.
One could say that I Love Us can’t decide what it wants to be. Is it a crime thriller or a family film? This split focus is a legitimate criticism, but somehow director and lead actor Danny Abeckaser manages to pull it off. It’s far from perfect, but it works well enough.
“…decides he needs to do one big job to free himself from Prince’s debt.”
First, let’s talk about weaknesses. The crime thriller and family aspects are very distinct. You could literally cut a knife through them and have two separate movies. On the thriller side, Sammy has to steal a painting from a wealthy but shady, gentleman and his team starts to question how much money they’ll make. Also, add the “last job” angle, going-over-the-plan segment, and complications, and you’ve got a heist movie. But, on its own, it’s an OK, though rushed story.
Then there’s the family plot. Sammy meets the love of his life, but when Laura passes away, he is the only parent to the kids, who are not his. Mind you, he barely knows them. So now Sammy has to be an instant parent to teens and deal with all the grief and you’re-not-my-real-dad issues. This is the best part of I Love Us, and Sammy’s arc plays out well. Much of the story works because of the strong cast of emerging and veteran talent. Robert Davi is so good, he even makes his bad wig shine.
Abeckaser plays Sammy as a cool street hustler. He has a heart of gold that eventually melts and finds fulfillment in being an adult and being responsible for others who need him. Unfortunately, the heist portion gets in the way of genuinely developing a solid narrative. The central conflict is about Sammy lying about his real occupation. What might have been more interesting is analyzing what qualities a professional thief has to be a good parent, especially of teens.
I Love Us gets my recommendation despite all my criticisms, as it’s ultimately a sweet story of love and family. It finds compassion and understanding in all of its characters, even in the mob boss Prince. It has heart and director/star Danny A. Abeckaser keeps his tale grounded and out of the realm of melodrama and silly comedy.
"…ultimately a sweet story of love and family..."