DVD Review - Filly Brown

Gina Rodriguez stars as Majo Tonorio, a young, Hispanic, female rapper in East Los Angeles whose mom is in prison. Majo needs to raise money to help get her mom out of lock-up. Mainly, the money is to pay legal fees. She asks her uncle and her father and both tell her no. Majo's stage name is Filly Brown, and she has friends at a local radio station, so she decides to try to build up her music career and parlay that into helping her mom.

Filmmakers Youssef Delara and Michael D. Olmos are great when they have Majo navigating her way through the music industry and dealing with issues that a young, Hispanic, female rapper would have to handle or experience. The filmmakers falter when they add the complications, regarding the aspects with Majo's mom.  There's also a tangent that has Majo going against a rival male rapper named MC Wyatt, played by Joseph Julian Soria, but she goes up against him in a way that's not about music but that's more about Wyatt and Majo's sister Lupe, played by Chrissie Fit.

The only tangent that the filmmakers take that works very well is the storyline involving Majo's father, José Tonorio, played by Lou Diamond Phillips. José is a contractor that does a lot of work with his two friends. José is pressured to fire those friends because his employer doesn't like the way they look. It's hard labor of them doing construction work in the hot sun, so they wear tank-tops, which show off their tattoos. According to José's employer, this makes them look like thugs or criminals. This is a good parallel because at the same time Majo is dealing with issues of identity or how she perceives herself as opposed to how others around her perceive her.

Majo has a romance with the radio station's disc jockey named DJ Santa, played by Braxton Millz. She and Santa work together to create a demo tape or in reality a MP3 file. Santa believes she is smart, angry and sexy like others, but a particular producer at a record label wants her to accentuate the sexy side. She is very sexy and can do what other female rappers have done like Nicki Minaj or Foxy Brown or Lil' Kim, but Santa would rather she accentuate the smart and maybe angry side like Lauryn Hill or Queen Latifah.

The struggle of what kind of rapper she wants to be and what she wants Filly Brown to truly represent is at the heart of the movie. This is where the filmmakers should have concentrated, because the tangents are nothing but distractions.

Four Stars out of Five.
Rated R for language, some drug use and violence.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 20 mins.


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