Movies made in the 1990s about the inner city are difficult to watch. After the reality depicted in The Wire and the depravities exposed in Precious, 'hood movies pre-911 have developed a retroactive sheen of acting-class perfect teeth, too bright and straight to be authentic.
That being said, Fresh (1994) is worth a watch. It makes no efforts to hide its stylized version of inner-city life and celebrates its staple NYC character actors like Giancarlo Esposito and Jose Zuniga, as well as the ultimate character Samuel L. Jackson. The only unknown is Sean Nelson, the actor who plays the title role. 14-year old Fresh already has a before-school and after-school and on-the-weekends job, selling crack for Corky and dope for Esteban. Fresh is sick of selling drugs, and although he's not even in high school he's already seeing his friends die, casualties in the bloody day-to-day of his neighborhood.
Fresh doesn't spend the money he earns as a runner, and he doesn't give it to his aunt or grandmother. Not unlike Gary Oldman in Romeo is Bleeding (see the Feed the Hole post), Fresh is squirreling away his cash in an old coffee can by the train tracks. We know he has a plan for the money, but not what that plan is exactly. It's a delight to watch it unfold, knowing the Fresh is one step ahead of both Corky and his rival Esteban, and one step ahead of the audience. The beauty of Sean Nelson's performance is the neutrality with which he plays every scene, forcing his face and mouth to remain motionless but with eyes dancing in pain and grief.
Fresh is available on DVD and via streaming on Netflix