Fresh (1994 film)
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Boaz Yakin|
|Produced by||Lawrence Bender
|Written by||Boaz Yakin|
Samuel L. Jackson
|Music by||Stewart Copeland|
|Distributed by||Miramax Films|
|Release dates||August 24, 1994|
|Running time||114 min.|
Fresh is a 1994 crime film written and directed by Boaz Yakin in his film directorial debut, and produced by Lawrence Bender (seen in a cameo appearance), who was riding the wave of success of Reservoir Dogs. It was scored by Stewart Copeland, a member of The Police.
Marketed as a hip hop 'hood film, Fresh went relatively unnoticed by the public, but won critical acclaim. An emotional coming of age story, it offers a realistic glimpse of the dangerous life in New York City's projects during the crack epidemic. "There's shocking resonance to the notion of a grade-school boy who's become a criminal out of sheer pragmatism," wrote Entertainment Weekly's Owen Gleiberman.
Michael, nicknamed Fresh (portrayed by Sean Nelson), is a 12-year old kid running drugs for gangsters, notably Esteban (Giancarlo Esposito). Inspired by the chess lessons of his father, an alcoholic speed-chess master (Samuel L. Jackson), Fresh devises and executes a brilliant plan to extricate himself and his drug-addicted sister (N'Bushe Wright) from their hopeless lives.
The movie starts out with 12 year old Michael "Fresh" on his way to the projects early in the morning. He enters the apartment of a Mexican woman. As he sits down at the table, she begins to talk to him, however he is giving short responses. She offers him cookies and milk, in which he takes. On the kitchen's counter we see her wrapping up a few dimebags of heroin in newspaper. There it is revealed that he is only there for a drug exchange. When handed she hands him the drugs, Fresh realizes that she had given him the incorrect amount. He tells her this, in which she denies, however he asks her if she would like to see him count it in front of her and that if she doesn't give him the correct amount, his boss, Esteban will be angered. She replies no and tries to brush it off as if she must have forgotten a bag and walks over to a corner in the kitchen where another amount of heroin is hidden. While handing it over to him, he sees needle marks on her forearm, indicating that she is a heroin user, and tried to swindle him out of another bag just to use it for herself. He sneers at this and leaves the house to go to another, a dirty torn up building, in which there are several women gathered around a table, sitting in torn, old rags of clothing cutting up bricks of crack. While there, a Hispanic worker who is measuring the ounces of drugs, Herbie, taunts Fresh, making crude comments about his sister. In response, with a solemn look on his face, Fresh tells him to never talk about his sister. The two go back and forth shortly.
Afterward, we see Fresh with an employee of Esteban, counting how much drugs he has brought back. Fresh tells him, that he is in a hurry and must go after the employee tells him that Esteban would like to speak with him and asks him to pay him later. The employee stops Fresh and gives him his money. It cuts to Fresh, standing in the doorway of his classroom being scolded by his teacher, Mrs. Coleman. She tells him to take his seat. While on the way there he collects another small packet of heroin from a small Hispanic boy. While putting his books in his locker, he drops the packet and nervously picks it up, afraid of being seen and finally sits down. In gym class, his friend Chuckie falls down while playing basketball. In the next scene, the boys' gym class go to watch the girls' cheer leading in the auditorium, giggling and joking with the girls. Later, at recess Chuckie and the rest of Fresh's friends can be seen playing baseball cards and swearing loudly while he is seen sitting quietly listening to it all happen. One of the cheerleaders makes eye contact with him and he looks away quickly. He smiles while she is not looking. He approaches her and tells her to stop looking at him because his friends are starting to take notice. He quickly turns mean and they converse for a while. She admits that she thinks he's cute. When school gets out, he heads to a forested, abandoned area to take money out of a secret hiding place inside of a rusty old can to put in the day's pay. He arrives home, his grandmother's house where his aunts and cousins all reside in. He greets everyone, but everybody seems to be ignoring him or giving him short responses. While walking around the house, he sees his distanced sister,Nichole, but who he calls Nickie. While laying in bed awake, one of his cousins asks him why he came home so late. She says that he'd better stop because if not, their aunt will put them all out and she cannot take going into another group home, seeing as none of them can stay with their parents. The next morning, he sells $10 worth of drugs to a man. A little while later, a pregnant woman approaches him, telling him about other sellers that let her have the crack for a lesser price. He denies selling it to her for a discounted price. Another deranged woman starts to beg him, even offering fellatio and intercourse for drugs. Again, Fresh denies the request and slaps the woman, prompting her to leave. Next, he goes to get paid by another boss, Corky. The boss gives him $50, but Fresh demands $100, seeing that Jake, a teenager who looks out while Fresh is pushing, makes twice the amount that he does while Fresh is actually selling. Corky accepts this and hands him more money, while stating that he will go far someday.
Fresh takes the subway to a local park to play chess with a man who is undefeated and plays for money while his dad, a skilled chess player, sits at another table watching him. After beating him, he earns $20. He plays chess with his father where he is beaten and gets a lecture. Subsequently, while with his friends, they go to Chuckie's house where he proposes the idea to Fresh that he will take him to go fighting, and if he wins, he will get paid. Since the dog is both of their's, Fresh says, he will not fight. Chuckie then tells him to get him a job with Esteban if he doesn't want their dog to fight. He says no, because Chuckie acts too childish at times. Fresh goes to Esteban's house while they are having dinner due to the fact that he wants to talk to Fresh. While there, Esteban confronts him with the fact that he knows that he has been doing jobs for other druglords. Fresh says he must, due to the amount of low work that Esteban gives him, however, Esteban tells him that he should not be selling crack, only heroin, because selling crack will either get him killed with a pipe in his mouth or a bullet in his head. But that if he continues to sell heroin, he won't go to jail because the police do not care about it. He leads him into a bedroom so that he can put his infant daughter to sleep. There, he begins talking to Fresh about his older sister, complimenting her appearance, Esteban proposes the idea that he would like to have intercourse with her. Fresh is visually shocked and angry, but holds it back. Esteban tells him to sit on the bed next to him and asks who his sister hangs out with. No one, Fresh replies, because his aunt won't let her out of sight. He leaves and enters a corner store, telling one of the clerks that he needs to see his sister. He goes upstairs in the store and meets her sister's boyfriend, James, who makes a rude remark saying that she must have used up all of the ugly in the family when he sees him. Fresh tells her that Esteban is looking for her and asks her why she is living with James. She tells him it is because he is a drug seller and that he has plenty of heroine for her to use. She tells him that she is nothing and that's why she is with him, but Fresh insists that she is and tells her that their aunt loves her. She says that isn't real love, and he tells her that he loves her. During a basketball game that follows, Jake, the teenager who looks out for Fresh during drug trades and the friend of one of Fresh's friend's get into a small altercation after Jake fouls the smaller kid, Curtis, by pushing him to the ground. After the boy scores a point, Jake becomes angered and leaves the court. Simultaneously, the girl that Fresh likes walks over. Jake turns around and fires shots at the smaller kid. Kids scream and everyone runs away, except Fresh. The girl,Rosie, has been shot and so has Curtis, who lies bleeding on the floor, dead. The gunman boasts about murdering them and says if anyone decides to tell who did it, they too will die. The police come shortly after, and ask him who did it. He denies knowing anything. Life goes on and Fresh plays chess with his father again. His father scolds him for making bad moves and for his mind being elsewhere. While playing, he finally checks his father. In celebration, they go to his house, which is a broken down, cluttered and dirty mobile home. Later, Chuckie and Fresh arrive at the dog fight, in which Fresh spots Jake. Fresh thinks that they should take the dog out of the fight, as he is scared. Nevertheless, their dog wins. In order to stop Chuckie from putting him into anymore fights, Fresh says he has a better idea for them to both get paid. Later, he starts a chess game with himself like his father. Fresh takes Chuckie with him to go see Esteban and finds him finishing having sex with his sister, the both of them naked. He tells Chuckie and Fresh to wait in another room, where Chuckie asks him if he can have a job. He tells Fresh that he wants him to be his only dealer, his man. Since Corky has the police on his back with the incident that Jake made, Corky is sending out Fresh to go collect drugs from another source for Corky, Hector. However, he doesn't want to give him any package, fearing that the police will come after him. Fresh tells him the threat Corky said and presents the large sum of money he had been saving to him. Hector takes the money and tells Fresh where to meet him.
Afterward, Chuckie can be seen on the playground bragging about how much dough he is making selling for Esteban. He starts to approach older boys, teenagers and tells them about how much money he is making. When school is over, they go to a bookstore to buy science textbooks that they later cut holes in and hide bags of heroin inside and get on the subway. Chuckie is climbing on the poles and gets in trouble when a cop sees him. Fresh goes inside of the basement of an abandoned house and wedges open the floorboards where he hides and swaps out drugs while Chuckie waits outside with a gun in hand. When the leave the building, around the corner is a car waiting for them that had seemingly followed them from the subway. Out step three men, faces hidden by the darkness. Fresh starts to run when Chuckie pulls out his gun. Fresh yells at him to run, but Chuckie fires a shot and trips when they pull out their own guys. His hand lands under a car. One assailant shoots the tire and it flattens under Chuckie's hand, crushing it. Fresh runs back over to help him, but Chuckie is stuck. The assailants shoot the glass window of the car and it shatters over their heads. Fresh runs away while Chuckie is stuck. The assailants shoot him. He is caught and questioned by the police at the police station. They question him, but have nothing to hold him on. One of the nicer detectives gives him his card. He goes back home. His aunt displays her concern and fear that someone will come and shoot up the house. She says with eleven other children in the household, she can't risk it, and tells him that he must go to a group home in a month. Fresh takes Roscoe, the dog to an alleyway and ties him up and shoots him. Later, we see Jake and another man outside in the same car that the three men drove that killed Chuckie. When Fresh goes outside, Jake forces him in the car. Jake has told Corky that he is also selling drugs for Esteban. In anger, while Fresh is sitting in a chair, he takes a handful of chains and is about to whip him right before Fresh lies and tells Corky that he wasn't selling for Corky, but Jake instead. Jake pulls out a gun but is stopped right before another henchman of Corky's pulls out a gun and puts it to his head, forcing Jake to drop his own. Jake's friend, Red, speaks up and says that he is lying but Fresh continues and says that the both of them were planning to beat up Corky. He also says Jake said that he would kill Fresh if he spoke up, and said that he only said he was selling for Esteban because Jake said if anyone knew he was dealing for him, he'd die. Fresh says to just ask Hector and that he will tell the truth. Cory pulls out his cell phone and talks to Hector. Hector tells him that Red, whom he is confusing for Fresh told him not to call or else he would die because the lines were tapped. Corky whips Red in the chest with the chains. Corky whips Jake in the chest, too. He whips them both an uncountable amount of times. As Jake and Red lay dead on the floor, Corky turns to Fresh and asks who was distributing to them. He says James, Nichole's dealer.
Fresh goes to Esteban's warehouse and tells him that Corky's crew had jumped him and that Corky was going to start selling heroin because he wasn't making enough selling cocaine. Esteban is very angry. He asks him where he gets this info, and he tells him James. He also says that Nickie is sick and tired of Esteban being married with kids and that James treats her nice and that she's there every night. Lying more, he states that Corky goes to James' to pick up the drugs every night, and that they will also be there that night. Corky and his men arrive at James' store and storm in while Esteban, Fresh, and two other men wait in Esteban's car right next to Corky's. Esteban pulls out his cellphone and gives an ok for the plan to begin, signalling another member. He tells Herbie and Fresh to stay in the car. Everyone else gets out with guns. Shots are fired from opposing sides, and James can be seem climbing out of his apartment from upstairs before being dragged back inside by Esteban. Fresh gets out of the car to get a closer look at the scene and sits on top of the car hood while eating a chocolate candy bar. Esteban pulls out his gun and shoots James. The remaining crew get back inside of the car, except for one, Chillie who is dead. They drive off and park in front of where Nichole's house is. Esteban gives the directions to get rid of all the guns and to dispose of the car they are driving upstate in a lake somewhere, but not before taking Fresh home. He also tells Fresh that he wants to see him next Thursday and that he will have some serious work lined up for him and hands him a wad of money. Fresh gets out of the car and Herbie demands to know where he is going. Fresh tells him it is ten P.M. and that he isn't going home yet, and that he is going to see his friend Nicholas. They let him out and drive off. He runs back to where Esteban left him right before they drove off and into a convenience store and feigns needing to use the phone just to watch what is going on from afar. He shows up at Esteban's house and says that he couldn't go home and face his family asking him all sorts of questions. Esteban lets him in. He is angry again, finding out that Fresh had called his sister before coming over and telling her that their father is in Staten Island and giving her a name of somewhere safe to go to, a rehabilitation center. Esteban asks if this is true. Fresh denies it, and his sister asks why he is lying. Then he asks Fresh if everything else he has said, about James true. His sister interjects by saying she can see whoever she wants and Esteban tells her that as long as she is addicted to drugs, he is her master. Right after, the police knock on the door and Fresh puts something underneath Esteban's bed. Esteban walks back into the living room with the police behind him. The nice cop who had given his number to Fresh turns out to be Sgt. Perez and Fresh had called him too before coming there. Fresh tells him about how Esteban went to James' store and killed everyone there forced him to go with them. He says that Esteban pointed his gun at his sister and him and was yelling and throwing him aside. Nickie says that he is lying, but he counters this by saying that when the police knocked, he threatened to kill her if she said anything. Esteban swears that he is clean and has nothing on him, but Fresh says that there are drugs under the bed if you look and a gun. The police look and find everything that Fresh had put there. There are full bags of drugs and a gun. After they take Esteban away, Perez tells Fresh that they will protect him and move him someplace else, his sister as well.
Fresh can be seen walking nervously to the park, to play chess with his father. His father is angry, telling Fresh that he is over an hour late, and that he could have played some easy people and made some money and that the game they play today will have no tips from him, as he won't always be there to hold his hand. After his ranting, he looks at Fresh. He has tears in his eyes and he starts to cry.
- Sean Nelson as Fresh
- Giancarlo Esposito as Esteban
- Samuel L. Jackson as Sam
- N'Bushe Wright as Nichole
- Ron Brice as Corky
- Jean-Claude La Marre as Jake
- Jose Zuniga as Lt. Perez
- Luis Lantigua as Chuckie
- Yul Vazquez as Chillie
- Cheryl Freeman as Aunt Frances
- Anthony Thomas as Red
- Curtis McClarin as Darryl
- Charles Malik Whitfield as Smokey
- Victor Gonzalez as Herbie
- Guillermo Diaz as Spike
- Anthony Ruiz as Hector
- Natima Bradley as Rosie
Janet Maslin of The New York Times commended the "thoughtfulness of [Boaz] Yakin's direction" and wrote that he "doesn't include many violent episodes in this film, but the ones he stages are made so meaningful that their impact is brutalizingly intense." She also complimented Adam Holender's cinematography and commented that he makes the film "extraordinarily handsome, with a sharply sunlit look that brings out the hard edges in its urban landscapes. The subject and visual style could not be more forcefully matched." Although he did not find its second half believable, Owen Gleiberman of Entertainment Weekly gave the film a B rating and called Nelson a "wondrous young actor". James Berardinelli called Jackson's supporting role "an example of an actor at his most focused" and called Fresh "an atypical thriller -- a film that succeeds because it defies many conventions of its genre." Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film four out of four stars and called it "a movie filled with drama and excitement, unfolding a plot of brilliant complexity". He praised Nelson's performance as "extraordinary" and found its plot "focused and perceptive", praising it for its social commentary:
[V]iolent death is a fact of life in America today. Guns have made our cities unsafe for children. What Fresh does is bring a new perspective to those facts, in the form of both drama and thriller. This is not an action film, not a clever, superficial thriller, but a story of depth and power, in which the dangerous streets are seen through the eyes of a 12-year-old who reacts with the objectivity he has learned from chess, and the anger taught to him by his life.
A soundtrack album was released on August 30, 1994 by RCA Records. It featured three songs by the Wu-Tang Clan and nine songs by old school hip hop artists, including The Cold Crush Brothers, Whodini, and Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five. Allmusic editor Chris Witt gave the soundtrack album four-and-a-half out of five stars and noted its old school tracks as the highlights, writing that "The contrast between the life and color of the old school tracks and the unrelenting gloom of the Wu-Tang cuts, produced over ten years later, suggests that hip-hop may have lost something in the intervening years."
- Gleiberman, Owen. "Movie Review: Fresh". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 27 May 2012.
- Ebert, Roger (August 31, 1994). "Fresh". Chicago Sun-Times (Chicago). Retrieved 2012-06-23.
- Berry & Berry (2007), p. 128.
- "Fresh". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2012-06-23.
- Maslin, Janet (April 1, 1994). Tomatoes "Movie Review - Fresh - Review-Film Festival; Black, 12 and Complex More Than Role Models". The New York Times (New York). Retrieved 2012-06-23.
- Berardinelli, James. "Fresh". Reelviews. Retrieved 2012-06-23.
- Witt, Chris. "Fresh [Original Soundtrack] - Original Soundtrack". Allmusic. Rovi Corporation. Retrieved 2012-06-23.
- Berry, Torriano; Berry, Venise T. (2007). Historical Dictionary of African American Cinema. Scarecrow Press. ISBN 0810855453.
- Seewood, Andre (2008). Slave Cinema: The Crisis of the African-American in Film. Xlibris Press. ISBN 9781436321792.
|Wikiquote has a collection of quotations related to: Fresh (1994 film)|
- Fresh at the Internet Movie Database
- Fresh at Rotten Tomatoes
- Fresh at allmovie
- Fresh at Box Office Mojo