MPAA Rating: R

Entertainment: +2

Content: -4

Michael (San Nelson), nicknamed Fresh by some of the drug dealers he works for, is a junior high student in the Brooklyn ghetto. He makes drug pick-ups and sells for an older dealer. He lives with his sister in an aunt's apartment. His father, Sam (Samuel L. Jackson), hustles chess in Central Park. It's never said why, but Michael isn't supposed to see his father. Still, he often meets Sam in Central Park to play chess, and learns Sam's philosophy of life. His sister has an affair with Estaban (Giancarlo Esposito), a married Hispanic who also sells drugs. When his girlfriend is hit by a stray bullet on the playground, Michael plans his revenge like his father has taught him to play chess. You study the opponent's playing style to find his weakness. Michael wants out of the drugs and the ghetto, and wants to take his sister out with him, but two drug dealers stand in his way. A sometimes thought-provoking look into lives surrounded by the drug-infested ghetto, this film both intrigues and repulses.

Drugs and their effects are seen, but actual use is only implied by bruised arms or dull looks. Michael uses chess strategy to escape, but as in a game of chess, he is forced to sacrifice a great deal. The audience is forced to watch severe violence, much of which involves children. A playground shooting shows violent results over a minor insult. Michael holds the bleeding wound of his girlfriend as she dies, and after a friend is killed, Michael takes a dog they shared and shoots it. While Sam corrects his son for using a slang term for blacks, others use it many times. More than 160 obscenities pollute the dialogue from beginning to end. Sadly, many are spoken by and to children. Estaban describes the enjoyment of a sexual encounter with Michael's sister, and later Michael sees them in bed together. FRESH's hopelessness and spiritual vacuum will depress more than it will entertain.

Preview Reviewer: Paul R. Bicking
Miramax Films, 18 E. 48th St., NY, NY 10017

The following categories contain objective listings of film content which contribute to the subjective numeric Content ratings posted to the left and on the Home page.

Crude Language: Many (44) times - Mild 10, Moderate 34

Obscene Language: Many (170) times(f-word 112, s-word 48, other 10)

Profanity: Several (9) times - Regular

Violence: Several times - Severe (woman slapped, boy & girl shot on playground, dog fight, car falls on boys hand, boy shot (off-screen), dog hung by leash & shot, boy slapped, man beaten with chain, man shot with shotgun)

Sex: Implied once, couple in bed

Nudity: Twice (male rear)

Sexual Dialogue/Gesture: Drug user propositions boy; sexual encounter described

Drugs: Alcohol use, cigarette smoking, narcotics sold

Other: Ethnic slur many times

Running Time:
Intended Audience: Adults

Click HERE for a PRINTER-FRIENDLY version of this review.