From the moment light suffuses the screen, director Boaz Yakin transforms what could have been just another gritty, urban scenario into something mystical and enduring. Reimagining the 'ghetto' genre from the ground up, this mature debut feature leaves aside the romanticised glamour of poverty and addiction seen in so many other films, and instead nails some hard emotional truths. Authentic and intelligent with moments of truly visceral impact, it radiates raw power tempered by a finely wrought sense of storytelling, carefully crafted dialogue and a pristine visual style.
Fresh, a school-age drug runner, is a quietly intense young boy, not at all taken in by the slick street cred of local ganglords. He has plans to save his earnings and escape the ambush of violence that is his daily existence-taking his older sister Nicole with him. However in a world where childhood is no defence against the horrors of the adult universe, his only protection is a terrifying sense of self-control and emotional distance that promises to swallow him whole.
Though forbidden to see his father (the ever versatile Samuel L. Jackson-Jungle Fever, Pulp Fiction) they meet to play games of chess, an obsession the older man believes will teach him about life. But for Fresh life is a very serious game, and to avoid being a pawn you must sacrifice what little innocence you have.