Unable to rely on his philosophical, chess-obsessed father Sam (Jackson) for money, 12-year old Fresh (Nelson) supports himself and his troubled older sister by running drugs in the projects where they live. When he witnesses a classmate's murder, Fresh hatches a coldly brilliant plan to outwit the brutal thugs who did the deed, and who now (for obvious reasons) want him dead.
First-time director Boaz Yakin brings a gritty realism to this sharply plotted urban drama about a cerebral African-American kid trying to survive on the mean streets of Harlem. Jackson delivers a characteristically intense performance as the boy's paternal advisor, but Nelson carries the movie as the Machiavellian minor whose tactical ingenuity comes from his expertise at chess. Lensed by Adam Holender ("Midnight Cowboy") and outfitted with a score by Police drummer Stewart Copeland, "Fresh" is a riveting inner-city drama thats low on big-budget flash but high on smarts.