Yakin wrote and directed the film after going into exile for some years. He was disillusioned with all the crummy studio work he was getting, all the uninspired, formulaic movies that were really just being made to sell more tickets and put more money in the studio exec’s pockets. He decided to leave Hollywood and not to come back until he had something to say. Fresh, then, is certainly saying something.
The movie is named for the titular hero, Fresh, a young boy who works as a drug mule for various dealers around town. Two of which are at war with one another. So how does he keep his head above water when he would certainly be killed if one boss found out about the other? Well the twenty to fifty dollars he makes per run, he hides it in a coffee can by the railroad tracks and… After a couple years of running drugs every day for twenty to fifty bucks a run… That adds up, and the things you can do with that money if you’re smart…
Fresh spends each weekend playing chess with his father, an alcoholic genius who’s become estranged from the family. The chess serves as a metaphor for the scheme Fresh is hatching, as well as a sort of Greek chorus scene for the audience and for Fresh himself.
The movie is sort of like Fistful of Dollars as a hood story. Two of Fresh’s friends are killed by one of the dealers he works for, and he takes it upon himself to exact an incredible revenge plan that gives you one surprise after another. Fresh is a young man of incredible intelligence, and his scheme is one of the all time greatest plots in film history.
His plan is to basically take down all of the scumbags who have been controlling his life and free himself and his family from the clutches of drug dealers. The brilliant part of this plan is that, because he’s just a child, they never suspect a thing. He plays chess with them in real life, and it has to be seen whether or not he’ll come out on top.
The movie is, at times, brutally and shockingly violent. This is necessary to drive home the reality of Fresh’s situation. He’s not in a good place in life, his bosses menace him and threaten him with death at every turn, and he walks a tightrope in order to keep himself alive while at the same time taking down the people who torment him and his friends and family.
The movie is really unlike any other. We’ve seen movies where the hero schemes their way out of trouble, rather than fighting or using guns, but rarely do we see a movie where that hero is a ten year old boy, rarely do we see a film with a child hero in a violent situation without being a fantasy family film like Home Alone. Fresh is real, raw, frightening, and fascinating.