BLACK SNAKE MOAN
Rae (Christina Ricci) is the town tramp, who does not seem able to keep her sexual urges under wraps. Immediately after her boyfriend Ronnie (Justin Timberlake) leaves for army duty in Iraq, she has sex with tough, black drug-dealer Tehronne (David Banner), before downing a mix of pills and alcohol and making herself available to anyone. Local farmer Lazarus (Samuel L. Jackson), whose wife has just left him, finds her unconscious on the side of the road and nurses her back to health. When he finds her a handful, he chains her to the radiator, hoping that by helping her fight her demons, he will inadvertently conquer his own.
Review by Louise Keller:
Christina Ricci wears little but a pair of skimpy white knickers as Rae, a properly mixed up Tennessee gal who has an insatiable urge for sex. Lazarus, a local farmer (Samuel L. Jackson), with gold capped teeth, grey hair and woolly beard, has his own problems: his wife 'don't love him no more' and puts a curse on him as she leaves. When Lazarus finds Rae lying unconscious from drugs, alcohol and abuse near his property, he takes her in. 'God seen fit as to put you in my path and I'm going to take this wickedness out of you,' he tells her, wrapping a thick industrial chain around her tiny waist, to keep her from running away. Deception, freedom and redemption all weave themselves into a moody tale that holds our attention for most of the time, compounded by Ricci's striking performance and waif-like appearance.
At just 5'1" Ricci is more than a foot shorter than Jackson and is totally vulnerable. She is like a wild cat on heat as she struggles to free herself from the heavy chain, her pleading saucer eyes contradicting the vulgarity of her body language. True to his name, Lazarus sees himself as Rae's saviour, trying to tame her, as he might a wild filly. Strumming his purple electric guitar, Jackson's Lazarus sings the blues - very well - including the title song, during an electric thunderstorm. It should be a climactic moment, but it falls a little flat, and the music and blues references may not be as successful as writer director Craig Brewer (Hustle and Flow) intends.
The language is colourful ('collar that dog', 'ain't gonna be moved,') which all adds to the gritty ambience of this small town community, where everyone knows everyone and the division of black and white is about equal. Jackson gives a complete performance of a man drowning in his problems, who is energised by the chance to help Rae. It is vastly different from so many of his roles, and Jackson is uncluttered by vanity or self-consciousness. Justin Timberlake is well cast as Rae's anxiety-prone soldier boyfriend, while S. Epatha Merkerson as the calm woman in Lazarus' life is a delight.
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BLACK SNAKE MOAN (MA)
CAST: Samuel L. Jackson, Christina Ricci, John Cothran Jr., Justin Timberlake, S. Epatha Merkerson
PRODUCER: Stephanie Allain, John Singleton
DIRECTOR: Craig Brewer
SCRIPT: Craig Brewer
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Amy Vincent
EDITOR: Billy Fox
MUSIC: Scott Bomar
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Keith Brian Burns
RUNNING TIME: 116 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Paramount
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: August 2, 2007