Why The F*ck Haven’t You Seen…FRESH?!

On July 23, 2013 by Matt Withers

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Chess has long been one of Hollywood’s favorite visual representations that someone is a genius.  A character moves a couple pieces on a board and utterly decimates their opponent.  Quick, easy, and since most people can’t play chess very well, an easy sell.  Then you move on with the character’s brain bonafides established and they can go about their geniusing to serve the rest of the plot.  Of course in films like SEARCHING FOR BOBBY FISCHER, chess takes center stage.  It becomes a test of mental acuity, will, and how ready you are to tackle life as a relatively quiet past time gets the ROCKY treatment.

And then there’s FRESH.  A hard look at a young kid making his way through the world as a drug runner in New York.  He is smart, quiet, intense, and rarely opens up more than when he is playing speed chess with his alcoholic father in Lincoln Park.  But as good as the kid is, he is not better than a dad who is nothing but a two-bit hustler living for little more than the next drink.  Chess is not the dad’s salvation, and it is only a window into how Fresh thinks.  Strategy is discussed, but what makes this film special is how Fresh applies the strategic thinking he uses in chess to deal with his very dangerous life.  As one drug lord tells him, “Only reason you ain’t the man is you still too goddamn little, but, when you get bigger, you gonna be the man.”

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That is never Fresh’s plan however.  And one of the outstanding features of the film is rewatching it and seeing all the pieces hold together.  This kid knows what he wants to achieve and does what he needs to do to make it happen.  And when a horrific event changes his world, he adapts his plan.  He no longer wants to win the game.  He wants to destroy the board.  Watching Sean Nelson as Fresh play the people around him with the ease at which he attacks a chess game is a sight to behold.  It is an understated performance that still stands as one of the best I’ve ever seen from a young actor.

Further increasing the general awesomeness of the movie is a cast that includes Samuel L. Jackson, Giancarlo Esposito and N’Bushe Wright.  Jackson in particular is fun to watch in a role from before he became a household name.

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I think part of the reason more people haven’t seen this film is the grittiness of it.  There is a lot of unpleasantness, much of it involving children, and one scene in particular is one that has stuck with me ever since; one that any animal lover will cringe at.  This is not a sugar coated fairytale.  It is a hard film that knows what it wants to say.

But even in a world that has seen THE WIRE, FRESH stands up.  In fact, if you really wanna have some fun, imagine Fresh’s name is Omar while you’re watching it, and prepare to have your mind blown.

So get off your butt and go watch this, cause if you haven’t seen it you’re probably a: PUSSY/dick/boob/ass

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