R (strong language, some drug use, violence, 98 min.)
Musics School of Hard Knocks produces another alumna in Filly Brown, a gritty and well-acted Latin hip-hop variation of a long reliable formula.
Gina Rodriguez delivers a breakout performance in the title role, a tough, two-fisted rapper named Majo whose two goals in life intersect to become a star under the name Filly Brown, and make enough money to get her mom (the late Jenni Rivera) out of prison.
A couple of veterans of the Latin film scene lend Filly Brown some gravitas. Edward James Olmos is the lawyer who sees more to Majos mom than shell let herself see. And Lou Diamond Phillips plays the hard-working contractor father who is dealing with his own stay true to yourself issues when his work is threatened by white real estate agents who dont like seeing tattoo-covered crews working on their properties.
Theres nothing much new here. But the performances and the milieu make Filly Brown an entertaining, honorable installment in a story that is the American Dream incarnate.
Roger Moore, McClatchy-Tribune News Service