Fresh is one of those films that overwhelms a person not with spectacular gunfights, special effects, or fanciful car chases, but with strong characters and a story that will draw you in. The brilliance of this film lies in the character portrayed by Sean Nelson.

Fresh (Sean Nelson) is a young drug runner for a local drug distributor, Esteban (Giancarlo Esposito). He lives in a poverty struck ghetto where nothing is right. Fresh is not your stereotypical street hood. He is an exceptionally intelligent young man who knows what’s right and what’s wrong. He only runs drugs for the Esteban to earn money he looks down upon the drug users, which include his sister. Fresh’s father (Samuel L. Jackson) is a drunk who lives in an old mobile home and plays games of speed chess at a local park to earn money for his booze. Fresh doesn’t live with his father though; he lives with the saintly Aunt Frances. He often visits the park to play chess with his father a sort of bonding experience for the two, and an excellent way to draw the analogy of chess and real life.

Although chess seems like just something that the father and son do together, in Fresh it is more than that. The strategies that Fresh learn from his father are used by Fresh in real life. When two of Fresh’s friends are gunned down, Fresh plans revenge (and rescue of his sister) in a sort of way that will leave you breathless.

The star of this film is Sean Nelson who plays Fresh as a quiet withheld young man who, unlike his best friend Chuckie, keeps everything to himself. And although Fresh doesn’t say much, we can see that there is something going on inside of his head. Nelson’s performance is brilliant.

I’ve been a fan of Samuel L. Jackson for a while now. He is one of the best actors in Hollywood, no questions asked. And in Fresh he doesn’t break from this. His portrayal as the hard-nosed father who teaches his son life’s lessons via chess is one of his best. Though his screen time is limited, he has enough screen presence to be one of the most memorable characters in the film.

Fresh was written and directed by Boaz Yakin whose credits include The Rookie and The Punisher. Fresh is quite an impressive film from Yakin. His instinct about the characters is right on and his script is smart and doesn’t take insult the viewer’s intelligence.

When looking at the film description on paper, one would probably instantly say that the film look and score is going to be dark, gritty, and angry. Someone who thought that would be all wrong. The film’s look is bright and clear. Instead of going with a docu-drama grainy look, cinematographer Adam Holender uses a higher-grade stock of film, which results in a picture that looks optimistic. The score by Stewart Copeland fits the movie perfectly and is not dark at all. Although not upbeat, the score is well done. There is no hardcore rap nor heavy beats, just Copeland’s score, which is brilliant.

Don’t Miss Fresh. You can find this film on video. This is a film that is a prime example of a great film driven by characters not by superficial things such a special effects or action. This film is so intricate that it cries out to be watched once or twice before truly understanding the complex relationships that are setup by the script.