'America Brown'

"America Brown" is the unlikely moniker of a high school football star from West Texas who takes a timeout from the gridiron on the eve of his senior year in writer-director Paul Black's sincere drama. "Ricky" Brown (Ryan Kwanten) is running from more than big expectations when he takes a long bus ride to Brooklyn seeking the counsel of his town's last great player, John Cross (Hill Harper), now a Catholic priest in Williamsburg. Ricky is also troubled by the recent death of his older brother (Michael Rapaport), a father figure who brutally groomed him for stardom. Cross opted out of the small town after high school, leaving football behind for the church, but is struggling over a growing friendship with a pretty French parishioner (Élodie Bouchez) and Ricky's presence, which reminds him of the past he wants to leave behind.

Ricky finds temporary sanctuary and a sweet love affair with a waitress named Vera (Natasha Lyonne), but it's not long before his Texas-size troubles find him. Black is interested in big themes — including guilt and redemption — and is helped by a strong cast capable of carrying the dramatic sequences.

"America Brown," unrated. Adult situations. Running time: 1 hour, 26 minutes. At Laemmle's Fairfax, 7907 Beverly Blvd., L.A., (323) 655-4010.

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