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  Directed by
  Starring
  Specs
  • Widescreen 1.85:1
  • 16:9 Enhanced
  • Dual Layer ( )
  Languages
  • English: Dolby Digital Stereo
  Subtitles
    English - Hearing Impaired
  Extras
  • Audio commentary
  • 3 Featurette
  • Storyboards
  • Jacket picture

Fresh

Madman Entertainment/AV Channel . R4 . COLOR . 109 mins . MA15+ . PAL

  Feature
Contract

In a world filled with films of black folks being drug barons and gun-toting gangstas, it is refreshing to see the theme from a different angle. And while the hero of this piece is a 12-year old boy who starts out playing the only game going on the streets – running drugs for the dealers – his final response is one markedly different from the multitude of films painting the ghettos as swarming with black criminals.

Michael is practically an orphan, being raised by a foster mother and surrounded by others like him. Nicknamed ‘Fresh’, he makes some money by using his intelligence and his courage by running drugs for the hard-arse pushers in the ghetto. Realising his mind is more developed than those of his peers, Fresh plays chess with his deadbeat father and learns the hard-graft lessons of life from seeing him a couple of times a week.

"When you get bigger, you gonna be da man…"

In the day to day course of his work, Fresh begins to see the cracks in his world as he gets smarter. When a couple of friends get brutally gunned down for no apparent reason, Fresh decides enough is enough and he can’t keep slinging dope all his life. Using his intellectual interpretations of the chess game, he starts playing one pusher against another in the hopes of bringing down the organisations from the most unlikely source - in the hope of giving himself at least a semblance of a decent childhood.

Sean Nelson plays Fresh and he is extraordinarily authentic in the role, skipping lightly between hard-nosed and childlike enthusiasm. Playing an adult intellect in a child’s body is no mean feat and Taylor brings such a likeable, yet believable presence to the film, it would be a very different film without him in the lead role.

The chess metaphor for the film isn’t overdone and blends suitably into the overall film, not insulting us with its apparentness, but exemplifying the parallels we have already drawn as an audience. It is a well-crafted film and while inherently shocking at times, it’s more horrifying to us when events aren’t so shocking. We’ve seen them before in a thousand films like this one, but as noted above this has the fresh (pardon the expression) take on the genre of a boy trying to straighten out the hand he’s been dealt by using his head.

Fresh is an important film and, despite the gritty undercurrent tearing through the muscle of the film, is delivered with hope and faith without being schmaltzy or trite. It’s well worth the investigation for anyone wanting a different take on the ghetto genre and anyone who appreciates the importance of choosing your own destiny over the situation you’ve been born into.

  Video
Contract

While there are occasional film artefacts here, these are really the only fault detectable in the delivery here. The 1.85:1 cinema aspect has been preserved and comes complete with 16:9 anamorphic enhancement. Lines are crisp and sharp, colours are well saturated and shadow detail is good (and that’s definitely a good thing during some night scenes). Blacks too are true, and flesh tones are natural and overall the video aspect is practically faultless.

  Audio
Contract

Well, the disappointment here is in the Dolby Digital stereo delivery. Don’t get me wrong, it sounds just fine, but it would have been nicer to hear a 5.1 mix here. However, the dialogue is all clear enough and every sailor-like swear comes through loud and clear (and there are plenty, let me assure you). Sound effects are okay, though occasional gunshots come across quite shockingly loud (but that is possibly the whole point). The subwoofer stays busy through the film though and lends a deep menace to much of the action.

The musical score by Stewart Copeland is distinctly free of hip-hop gangsta music for much of the film, which is a real surprise. Instead the story is lent a more poetic ear by the classical strings and orchestral pieces throughout. It’s a good score too, suiting the film well and helps the film by supporting the unexpected angle noted above.

  Extras
Contract

Here’s a surprisingly complete package of things to keep you busy. The first is in the audio commentary by director Boaz Yakim. He’s a very talkative fellow when it comes to his film and makes some interesting comparisons to other screenplays he’s written professionally before this. And there are some very different ones mentioned, but I’ll leave those for you to discover yourself.

A short interview featurette features soundbites with the major cast including Yakim, Giancarlo Esposito and Samuel L. Jackson (is there a film in which he hasn’t starred?). A very short 2:17.

Then come storyboard comparisons for seven scenes within the film that haven’t been drawn all that well, I have to say, but they run nicely in a split screen delivery for varying lengths of time.

Cast auditions are next and a generous tip o’ the cap to the moron who misspelled the title role actor of Sean Nelson, calling him Shawn. Nice work, whoever you aren’t. These auditions run for varying lengths, feature very soft-edged video in 4:3, are out of focus and the sound is abysmal. View at your own risk, says I.

A behind the scenes featurette is next and again short at 4:58. This too is soft-edged and almost Super 8 with soundless action and overdubbed dumb-arse music. Woo.

And, just before I go, there’s a jacket picture for those of you who enjoy stopping your DVD but not turning off your telly.

  Overall  
Contract

Fresh is one of those films that you don’t expect to stay with you, but it manages to do so anyway. The struggle for a kid to have a childhood he’s entitled to just by being born makes for some compelling viewing and Fresh is played with the perfect amount of empathy from Sean Nelson in the title role. The story is a good one, if slightly confusing toward the end, but this confusion passes swiftly as we’re left to consider the depth of the story after the credits have rolled.

A gritty film indeed, but also one full of hope amidst the horror and well worth the look.


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      And I quote...
    "Fresh isn’t just the title character, but the ghetto genre’s treatment in this gritty film of inner-city life."
    - Jules Faber
      Review Equipment
    • DVD Player:
          Teac DVD-990
    • TV:
          AKAI CT-T29S32S 68cm
    • Speakers:
          Teac PLS-60 Home Theatre System
    • Centre Speaker:
          Teac PLS-60 Home Theatre System
    • Surrounds:
          Teac PLS-60 Home Theatre System
    • Subwoofer:
          Akai
    • Audio Cables:
          Standard RCA
    • Video Cables:
          Standard Component RCA
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