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Filly Brown DVD Movie Review

Review Date: April 14, 2013 at 8:20 AM

In theaters April 19, DVD & Blu-Ray Release Date: July 30, 2013

 

Starring: Gina Rodriguez, Lou Diamond Phillips, Edward James Olmos, Jenni Rivera, Pete "Chingo Bling" Herrera, Baby Bash, Cuete Yeska

 

Filly Brown movie review

There are few movies that have effectively captured the pitfalls of the urban music industry. Filly Brown is undeniably one of them.  But what makes this film stand out from 8 Mile or Hustle and Flow is how it addresses women in Hip Hop, along with a female lead that delivers an electrifying performance.

 

Filly Brown follows the story of Majo Tonorio (Gina Rodriguez), a Latina MC who dreams of one day rocking packed shows.  The Los Angeles rapper generates a buzz dropping bars on the radio as Filly Brown, but her desire to get signed becomes overwhelming when the stakes are raised. Filly's mother (Jenni Rivera) is serving a ten-year stretch in prison, her only hope for quick release depends on whether the aspiring rapper can score some cash.  The resulting journey is a tale of desire, manipulation, and redemption.

 

Despite its low budget, Filly Brown is shot well. But what stands out most about the movie is the cast, a mix of film veterans and fresh faces. Gina Rodriguez puts on a fiery performance as Filly Brown, with a voice and intensity that lend themselves perfectly to the role. 

 

Edward James Olmos adds a seasoned touch to the film as Leandro, the attorney Filly solicits for help in freeing her mother. Olmos is reunited on screen with Stand and Deliver alum Lou Diamond Phillips, who plays the hardworking father of Filly and her naive younger sister.  Film and TV veterano Emilio Rivera stars as Mani, Filly's protective uncle and employer. Left Coast rappers Cuete Yeska and Baby Bash add some flavor to the cast, with Chingo Bling adding some needed levity to the film as Filly's fast-talking manager.

 

Despite this being only her first feature film, Jenni Rivera delivers a moving portrayal of Maria, Filly's strung-out mother serving a dime for repeat drug arrests.  Rivera ditched her glamorous Diva de la Banda look for prison blues to serve up a haunting and memorable performance.  Her scenes are convincing, which is bittersweet considering Filly Brown will remain her only appearance in theaters.

 

With respect to the movie's inside look at the urban music game, Filly Brown scores points for realism. Hip Hop managers are left twisting in the wind when labels strike deals.  Rappers such as Snow Tha Product are denied the mainstream attention their talent deserves, the result of both being Latina and refusing to compromise artistic integrity.  Filly ultimately succumbs to the pressure of "sexing up" her image and lyrics to secure a record deal in order to finance what she believes to be her mother's chance at early release.

 

Filly Brown isn't flawless, however.  The film serves up more than a few character types common to past movies, which gives several scenes a recycled feel to them. There are also too many subplots, which threatens to muddle the film the closer it gets to the end.

 

Ultimately, Filly Brown is a success. Its lineup of talented Latino actors, surprisingly fresh Hip Hop soundtrack, and tear-worthy conclusion makes for a memorable film.  It's a film you will definitely want to see in theaters if showing in your city, otherwise be sure to cop the DVD when it drops.

 

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