Black Snake Moan
Director: Craig Brewer (Hustle & Flow)
Writer: Craig Brewer
Producers: Stephanie Allain, John Singleton
Starring: Samuel L. Jackson, Christina Ricci, Justin Timberlake, John Cothran Jr.
MPAA Rating: R
Running time: 115 min
read my spoiler disclaimer

reviewed by Andrew James
     Black Snake Moan really has nothing to do with snakes; unless you count trouser snakes. This movie is a gritty look into sexual addiction in the worst and most exploitative way and one man's desire to "cure" the afflicted.

      A tired, recently seperated from his wife, farmer in the deep south, Lazarus (Jackson), stumbles upon a young, sexy woman (Ricci) who's seriously ill and has been beaten and left for dead along the desolate roadside. Laz brings her inside his shack of a home to fix her up. During her moments of consciousness, Laz realizes that this girl has some serious social issues, which including an almost demon possessed state in which she has a STRONG desire to have sex with anything with a heartbeat, but most notably with black men. Laz decides to "cure her of her wickedness" by chaining her to the radiator until she's ready for the world.

      The feel of this entire film is phenomenal. Since it takes place in the deep south, everything is hot, sticky and sweaty; and we're thrust into this world and can feel the sweltering heat right along with the characters. Everything is so gritty and dirty that I could feel the dirt underneath my finger nails and almost smell the stench of body odor.

      For anyone who saw Hustle & Flow a couple years back, you know how important music is in a film for director Craig Brewer. Hustle's "It's Hard Out Here for a Pimp," earned an academy award in 2006 and rightfully so in my opinion. The feeling and depth that song had within the context of the film was one of the most powerful and enjoyable scenes of that year. Likewise with Black Snake Moan, music plays an intrical and emotional part to the story. Laz is an old blues guitarist and the moments in which he dusts off the peavey amp and plugs in are played with conviction and fervor. It's ridiculously cool. The soundtrack through other parts of the film is just as headstrong and relevant to the bluesy style of the south.

      This may seem like a pretty bold statement, but I would say that this is probably Samuel L. Jackson's finest performance since Pulp Fiction. This is true acting. He's not playing some streamlined Hollywood charicature of a cop or a Jedi Master. This is a real character that is totally believable and he has done well to choose this part at this point in his career. The southern drawl coupled with the vernacular of the region is spot on and the effort and believability rating is through the roof.

      As for Ricci, I've never really liked her. Not for any discernible reason other than a personal feeling of adversity with her. Those negative feelings may have turned towards the positive a bit with this latest role. Granted she spends three quarters of the movie half naked, which is always a plus; but you can tell that she really put some effort into this character and made it her own. In the role of Rae, Ricci gives us a real sense of the sickness that is a hillbilly hick haunted and traumatized by a horrible past and present.

      As much as I seem to be liking this film more and more as I think about it and read about it, it's definitely not for everyone. Though the performances are great, the style is unique and the blaring blues music in DTS digital sound is almost trance-like, the story can get a bit slow from time to time and some may find themselves not caring at all for these characters or their plight. Others may be turned off by the harsh language and exploitation of people from the south. But this is just on the surface. If you look deepeer, you'll find a story about morality, ethics and how people can change for the better with just a bit of effort, education, parental guidance and religion.

      Granted the film straddles the line of Hollywood and B-list, but it does it well and I think it is exactly what director Brewer is going for. There are some genuinely cheesy moments that could reflect an MTV video, but in general it pieces together very well with a rawness that MTV could never, or would never, deliver. If you can handle raw, adulterated hormones and sex (complete with the STDs) in a sweaty, gritty southern hick town with no law, you've got the Black Snake Moan.

Press "PLAY" to watch the trailer

Links: - full cast and crew
Official Site
FLIXSTER PROFILE for Black Snake Moan