This film is 25 years old. There is a scene that hits at a man’s fragile ego, which shows the film’s relevancy today. Fresh (Sean Nelson) is a pre-teenage drug dealer looking to escape with his sister from a dangerous lifestyle. I felt like this film was a combination of “The Sandlot” and “Menace II Society.”
Sean Nelson gives a cunning and mature performance. As Fresh, he handles his business yet allows himself to be vulnerable. Samuel L. Jackson is wise as Sam, Fresh’s father. They are rebuilding a broken relationship. It is fascinating to see Jackson look older and homely in his earlier roles. Giancarlo Esposito is ever fantastic as Esteban, a manipulative drug dealer. N’Bushe Wright is wide-eyed and commanding as Nichole, Fresh’s sister. Jean-Claude La Marre is ruthless as Jake, a lookout. Luis Lantigua brings the humor as Chuckie, Fresh’s best friend.
Writer & Director Boaz Yakin crafted a multi-layered script. New York was not as prevalent but the story could have been set anywhere, which is how it resonates. Chess is a powerful metaphor for how Fresh moves in the dangerous world of drug dealing. It is the way Fresh and Sam build a relationship against the odds of their father-son dynamic. It is also not a little boy’s game. Fresh is constantly in grownup situations. There were plenty of moments for him to be murdered. He also has a crush on a girl, bringing back the reality that he is a child. The language and slang of the film adds another realistic element even if it is cringeworthy to hear from these kids. Music by Stewart Copeland is interesting in the scenes. It has a Renaissance feel.
You can stream this film on Netflix.