It’s exciting to see Shyamalan on such confident footing once more, all these years later.
Characters are never at a loss for words in the movies. They talk quickly, never hesitating or repeating themselves. Kids are especially articulate, like well-trained little word machines. Movies are getting to be more and more like television, where there's never a moment to spare.
"Fresh" isn't like that. Here's a movie filled with drama and excitement, unfolding a plot of brilliant complexity, in which the central character is solemn and silent, saying only what he has to say, revealing himself only strategically.
Fresh is a 12-year-old boy who lives in Brooklyn. He is a runner for drug dealers. Because he is smart and honest, they respect him. Fresh lives with 11 other children in the spotless, orderly apartment of his aunt, who is a saint, he agrees, but who is helpless against the dangers that children face in the streets. Sometimes he sees his dad, an alcoholic who lives in a camper and supports himself by hustling chess games for cash. Sometimes he sees his sister, who has moved out of their aunt's apartment to live with a dealer. Her days pass in a sad haze of drugs.
Fresh knows a lot about drugs, and has a good relationship with a local dealer named Esteban, who is not a bad man as drug dealers go, and who is proud of Fresh - thinking of him almost like a son. Fresh's life, and the city that formed it, are drawn carefully in the early scenes of "Fresh," which was written and directed by Boaz Yakin, a sometime writer of Hollywood thrillers ("The Rookie"), who dropped out, moved to Paris, and told himself he would return to the movies only when he had something to say and control over how it was said. "Fresh" meets those qualifications.