Morning, everyone! I think it goes without saying that, if you find yourself falling down the Quentin Tarantino rabbit hole, you’ll more than likely find yourself falling down the Samuel L. Jackson rabbit hole as well. I’m definitely not immune to this turn of events so that’s why I chose to check out today’s movie, Fresh. I touched a bit on this last month but, I love a movie where kids outsmart adults. Probably because I know so many adults who dumber than bricks but, that’s neither here nor there. The point being that, while this is generally guaranteed comedic gold, it is much, much more powerful in the context of a drama. Especially one like Fresh. I haven’t been this enthralled by a new-old movie in a while. Similar to Boyz in the Hood, Juice, and The Wire (particularly Season Four), Fresh is now firmly in my category of quintessential movies about the innocence of kids trapped in very, very adult worlds.
Starring Sean Nelson as Michael, otherwise known on the block as “Fresh”, the movie is about a young boy’s journey through the dangers of the real-as-hell world in which he lives. On the outside, Fresh is just a normal, 12-year-old kid but after school is out, he’s a drug runner for numerous heavy hitters in the neighborhood. It’s not clear how he gets into the business but it is clear what his intentions are: to leave. While trying to navigate the life of a young boy, he’s forced to navigate the life of a grown adult in the drug game, witnessing murders, being a lookout, dealing with junkies, robberies, and literally every other part of the underworld that could intersect in his small Brooklyn neighborhood. With dudes like big boss Esteban (Giancarlo Esposito [everyone’s favorite Pollo Hermano]) talking shit about his junkie sister left and right, friends who act too grown without growing their mind, a drunk/homeless father (Samuel L. Jackson), and a small apartment with 11 other kids living in it, life couldn’t be harder. Fresh knows he has to get out and what better way to get out of a trap than to employ a centuries old tactic? It’s with his love of chess that Fresh puts in motion a plan to not only simply escape the projects, but to bring down the world around him and make the cleanest, most difficult checkmate of his entire life. All 12 years of it.
Fresh is one of the most disarmingly intelligent characters I’ve ever seen on film. And when you start to see just how smart he is, you’re shocked but then I found myself being so happy and proud of him for being so smart. Let me explain. A lot of people would feel that way because he’s a black kid from an inner city project running drugs at 12 years old. Who would think he’s smart? And you know, if you think that way, that’s fine. I get it. It’s super offensive but, it’s fine. However, the real reason Fresh’s intelligence is so great is so much more simpler than that. For me, it was purely his age and that really made me think about the difference between my childhood and his. When I was 12, I don’t even remember what I was thinking about. Probably snacks, tv, and ditching homework. None of that requires any intelligence at any level. Fresh’s circumstances could’ve easily required him to be “dumb” or just fall head first into that world but he didn’t. He used everything to his advantage and ultimately, with all the grown ups telling him how smart he was, no one actually thought that to be the case. So, when everything comes crumbling down, it’s such a sweet relief and such a well deserved moment for Fresh that I found myself saying, out loud mind you, stuff like “Yeah, man!” or “Hell yeah! Fuck that dude, Fresh”. What a rad movie man, damn. Perfect way to start the week. If you loved any of the movies mentioned before or really like the flashback scenes in the movie The Wood (which also star Sean Nelson as the main character, Mike) then you gotta check out Fresh streaming on Netflix right now. Come back tomorrow for my thoughts on Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom. Thanks!