Get ready for FRESH -- the intense, action-packed hit that wowed critics and riveted audiences everywhere! Disenchanted by the harsh realities of life in the city, a smart, streetwise kid nicknamed Fresh strives to create ... more »a better future for himself and his family. Fighting back in the only way he knows how, Fresh defies the odds by staying one move ahead of the local criminals in a dangerous game of survival! With extraordinary breakthrough performances by Samuel L. Jackson (PULP FICTION, JURASSIC PARK) and young Sean Nelson as Fresh, this is electrifying, edge-of-your-seat entertainment!« less
"Anything lost can be found again, except for time wasted."
Mark Lee | 02/29/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Michael, a.k.a. "Fresh", is a 12-year-old drug dealer who lives in a run-down house with his aunt and other orphaned children in a dangerous Brooklyn neighborhood. Having grown up in a harsh culture, he is a boy who shows little emotion despite witnessing the revulsion of street life on a regular basis. His mother is long gone, his sister has resorted to prostitution, and his father is completely estranged-although every now and then he meets with his father to play speed chess, through which he is taught street knowledge. At first Fresh aspires to live the life of a powerful drug dealer, but one day a heartrending incident causes him to rethink his dreams and consider a better possible future. Directed by Boaz Yakin (who also directed "Remember the Titans"--a *completely* different film), "Fresh" is an astonishingly well-done film that left me stunned long after it ended. By depicting a brutal life through the eyes of a young boy, the film tells a bleak story by taking its viewers on a roller-coaster ride of gut-wrenching scenes, and yet in the process it still manages to engage the audience and finally arrive at a surprising conclusion. Although the first third of the film is basically used to give the viewer a tour of Fresh's neighborhood, the plot soon becomes very complex after one particular scene. Fresh's life literally becomes a game of chess, represented by the moves the pieces make and the strategy used to stay alive. Despite the film's quiet atmosphere, it moves at a rapid pace and forces the audience to listen closely in order to keep on track with the plot. The plot moves unpredictably throughout, but every one of its elements makes perfect sense after a bit of thinking. And although the script is heavy on profanity, it is totally realistic in depicting the everyday life of the characters, and the dialogue between Fresh and his father during their chess matches is especially good. The picture is shot on low-budget film, making the Brooklyn neighborhood feel all the more dark and unwelcoming. But there are no prolonged fight scenes, nor is there a lot of on-screen brutality. There are, however, a lot of tragic scenes that really hit home, and they are shot with rapid film editing and camera work that didn't require any computer enhancements. Simply put, no unnecessary visual techniques are used.The acting is superb all around. Sean Nelson, in his debut role, is stunning as Fresh; he is so compelling in the way he conveys his emotions without having to say anything, and he feels so natural that it seems as if he doesn't even know the camera's on him for more than 90% of the film. For this to come out of a debut performance is impressive enough; but for it to come out of such a young actor is truly astonishing. Supporting roles include Samuel L. Jackson, who expresses a great sense of authority as Fresh's father, and Giancarlo Esposito, who is absolutely chilling as the "black king" of the film.And the ending is unforgettable. In fact, it is not the unpredictable denouement that the viewer remembers best; it is the very last image. In one final shot, all the emotion that had built up to that point bursts out in a brief, silent moment. It is a deeply moving way to end the film, and it gave me a faint sense of hope despite all the sorrow and horror that had already happened. "Fresh" is a tiny film that manages to be riveting, frightening, disturbing, contemplative, poignant, and faintly uplifting all at once, and that alone makes it one of the most memorable films I have ever seen. But with acting, filming, and screenplay all being top-notch without any other frills, "Fresh" is also a brilliant work that uses only the most basic aspects of film to their fullest extent. It features many upsetting scenes and is definitely not for all viewers, and due to the plot and script it can be a very challenging film to watch at times, but it is an unconventional example of a director and cast at the top of their form. I easily recommend "Fresh" to film lovers everywhere."
An INCREDIBLE movie that suffered from lousy distribution
Rebecca Radnor | Evanston, IL USA | 07/23/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)
"With the exception of a audio track that sometimes gives the impression that students were hired to record the sound, this is quite possibly a perfect movie. Given two thumbs WAY up by Siskel and Ebert, this film is a tightly written and well acted. The initial opening, which confused me at first, on later viewings revealed itself to be the setting of the chessboard upon which the title character plays his most important game -- Namely, his life. If you are a lover of suspense, intelligence, or chess (Fresh uses chess tactics to checkmate his opponents and save the "queen") than This is the film for you. Because, at first glance, this film is about African Americans and drugs -- but with relatively little violence, the distributors had no idea what to do with it and it received lousy distribution and little advirtising. It is NOT however so much a film about drugs and violence, as it is about an incredibly intelligent, hard working kid who uses all the resources available to him to get himself and his sister a better life. I have seen this film multiple times, and to my amazement found NOT ONE line of wasted dialogue in the whole thing... which makes the lousy soundtrack all the more annoying. Additionally, it has the complex construction of a Dickens' tale -- seemingly unrelated details all coming together to a tighly knit resolution. If you are a serious student or lover of film, this is one to be savored."
An Overlooked Gem
I. Rodriguez | 04/27/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is a very recent film that I watched at the suggestion of one of my co-workers (Hey Harlan!). I was captivated by this film from beginning to end. Its raw power is undescribable, and the performances by the lead actor in particular (Sean Nelson) was brilliant. The story deals with a young boy who has become a pint size drug runner. He, however, is extremely intelligent and knows that there is no future in this type of life. He sets out to become a man, and in the process many lives are changed, most importantly his own. It is a film of astonishing and unrelenting power which should be seen by everyone. I was very impressed with screenwriter/director Boaz Yakim's decision not to put the usual soundtrack that befuddles urban films, instead, the instrumental score brings yet another dimension to this already multi-layered motion picture. Kudos to Giancarlo Esposito in the role of Esteban."
Your queen is just a pawn with some fancy moves...
A. Gyurisin | Wet, Wild, Wonderful Virginia | 03/24/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Fresh is one of those movies that you never see coming. From the opening credits until the end, it provides you with this deep, gritty, yet utterly realistic portrayal of a youth's mind on the streets. While our normal society will shrug a struggling African American living in the ghetto as someone without the intelligence to go forward in life. It is a sad reality in which we live, but it is a thought that goes through suburbia's minds. This film proves the age-old saying that you should never judge a book by its cover. What begins as a normal urban drama quickly unfolds into this tightly woven crime story where we have this unexpected hero that arrives from nowhere to pull of this incredible feat. With perfect acting, the right combination of drama and action coupled with suspense, and a story that literally keeps you glued to your seat until the very end, it surprises me that more people haven't discovered this cinematic gem and attached themselves to it.
To begin, Sean Nelson is brilliant. I have not seen better acting from a young adult in my entire film life. Dakota Fanning comes close, but Nelson's emotion seems to be raw and uncreated by Hollywood. His reactions and passion behind his eyes is intense and compelling at the same time. You cannot watch this movie without keeping your eyes glued to this kid. I am very surprised that he has not done more roles that would be able to showcase this young protégé's talent. He interacts well with the other actors as well, giving us this rare glimpse into a world that many of us may not be familiar with. He takes us away from the clichéd child abandoned on the streets with nothing to loose and gives us faith in the family structure and bonds that are created between humans. Sometimes I think we forget this as we watch our televisions, buy our cars, and spend our money. There are important aspects in life, but at times our ideas of that can be skewed. That is what I love about Sean's role in this film. He defines himself early, and allows us to see his change clearly throughout the film. He begins as wanting to have a lot of money and power to using what he has earned to save his family and his friends. There is something redeemable about that which isn't shown as much in films today.
Add to the brilliant work of Sean Nelson are a couple of actors that really played well of the emotional child. Giancarlo Esposito, N'Bushe Wright, Jean-Claude La Marre, Ron Brice, and the unquenchable Sam Jackson are just a few. Nelson's ability to play off Jackson's intensity with the greatest of ease is just another glowing example of the power behind this film. You can honestly see where Fresh's talent began with the strong father/son dynamic that director Boaz Yakin has created. Yakin has crafted this beautiful story of a child's inner demons and desires with the greatest of ease. As a director, he has pulled more emotion out of these children than I have ever seen with any other child actors. Where he takes his story is bold and realistic. The dirtiness and grime of the streets contrasted with the intelligence of this child was nerve racking and intense. I loved it. Yakin had to be proud of himself to find such a great cast to work with as well as create this story that could be enjoyed by audience throughout the ages.
Finally, I would like to comment on one of the most important themes of this film that I didn't realize until closer to the end. Chess is a huge element in this film, and at first you will not see this, but by the end it will hit you like a brick. The power that Jackson brings to this young boy's mind simply by teaching him the strategies of chess is insurmountable. While I thought that Yakin was just trying to define the father/son relationship with this game, there was so much more going on underneath the top layer that I wasn't expecting it from this small title. I think that is what impressed me so much.
Overall, this film is great. It is boldly honest and originally beautiful (in repetition of myself) that needs to be re-released or remembered time after time. I am so glad that I discovered it and cannot wait to show it to friends and family. It is nothing short of the perfect film!
Grade: ***** out of *****"
Hester | Seattle, WA USA | 08/02/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"After I saw this movie, I was unable to stop thinking about it. It is absolutely stunning. Masterfully written and directed by Boaz Yakin, and a near perfect performance by Sean Nelson. The movie's plot twists unfold before you even realize what's happening... and by the time you do, you're already hooked. Chess as a metaphor for life works better in this movie than the corny sentimentality of "Searching for Bobby Fischer" (still a good movie in its own right, but nowhere near the depth and complexity of "Fresh"). Samuel L. Jackson also gives a superb supporting performance as Fresh's father. For those who characterize the events in the film as overly sensational or gratuitous (dog scene, etc.), have failed to grasp what is really going on in the film."