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"Filly Brown" is a clear case of a character (and a performance) that's more interesting and moving than the movie she's in.
The title is the rap handle of Majo Tonorio (played by Gina Rodriguez), a would-be rap star growing up in L.A.'s Latino community. With lyrics borrowed by her imprisoned mother (singer Jenni Rivera, who made her acting debut before her death last December in a plane crash), Majo makes an impression with record producers but must decide whether to sell out for quick cash or be true to her music and to her DJ, Santa (Emilio Rivera).
There's also home drama, with Majo's hard-working father (Lou Diamond Phillips) clashing with the lawyer (Edward James Olmos) Majo has hired to represent her mother.
The story occasionally devolves into rags-to-riches clichés, but directors Youssef Delara and Michael D. Olmos are at their best when spotlighting Rodriguez's powerful performance behind the mic.
Opens Friday, April 26, at the Megaplex 15 at Valley Fair (West Jordan) and Cinemark 24 (Jordan Landing); rated R for language, some drug use and violence; 80 minutes.