"Black Snake Moan"
Directed by Craig Brewer.
Written by Craig Brewer.
Starring Samuel L. Jackson, Christina Ricci, John Cothran Jr.,
and Justin Timberlake.
Release Year: 2007
Review Date: 2/7/07
As occasionally funny and quirky as "Black
Snake Moan" is, I liked Craig Brewer's
Flow" a lot better.
The director was in town last night to push
his newest flick, which debuted at Sundance a few weeks ago, and
judging by the rush of the crowd to leave the theater before the Q&A
could begin (sure, maybe it was the snow!), I think a few other
folks were not blown away by this drama. Samuel L. Jackson
stars as Lazarus, a cropper in modern-day Tennessee who has just
watched his wife leave him for another man. Meanwhile,
somewhere across town, Rae (Christina Ricci) loses her boyfriend
Ronnie (Justin Timberlake) for a tour of duty when Ronnie leaves to
join the National Guard. Left on her own, she has an uncanny
ability to get laid, oh, all day long if left to her own devices.
The lives of Lazarus and Rae intersect when, after Rae runs into a
guy who physically abuses her and leaves her for dead on a back
road, Lazarus is the first to run into her sprawled-out, near-naked
body and he takes her in to care for her. But, when Lazarus
discovers that Rae is a sexpot just waiting to explode, he doesn't
have the urge to get up in that...no, sir, he wants to CURE our
little lady, and to do that, he goes to some extreme measures to
make that happen. And, thanks to the fact that Laz is black
and Rae is white, we have a reverse slavery situation that makes the
situation even more dicey...especially when Ronnie comes back from
his "tour" REALLY early.
Like I said, "Black Snake Moan" is curious,
certainly it is different, and these differences lead to a few
laughs. The best thing about the film, by far, is its bluesy
soundtrack; Brewer, who hails from Tennessee and considers himself a
true blues aficionado, seems to have really worked hard to make the
music of the film feel genuine, right down to the Laz character and
his former blues frontman past. And, between a couple of
lounge numbers, a sweaty dance crowd and the power of music to calm
a soul, "Black Snake Moan" is almost a blues thriller. Where
the film falls to mediocrity is in the fact that Laz uses his blues
powers (and, a big fucking chain) to help "heal" Rae and her
sex-loving ways to do good, not evil, and after the initial promise
of chaining Rae up in his house, I felt the story broke down a bit
to become this coming-of-age dramedy, saved a bit by even more
music. One has to give Brewer credit--he has captured so much
about the musical experience in his two major films (he made one
before "Hustle & Flow" that was straight to video), and in his
upcoming film, apparently he is going after country (per some of the
questions he answered in the Q&A).
The performances by most of the actors in
"Black Snake Moan" are solid; Jackson and Ricci (who hasn't been in
a wide release since 2003's similarly-white-trashy role in
great, and Ricci soaks up playing white trash in a Brewer film
following the also-great white-trashy performance by Taryn Manning
in "Hustle & Flow." Timberlake is so-so; he didn't make me
bite as well as he did in
"Alpha Dog", but
at least this movie is better! The support is great, chiefly
from John Cothran, Jr. as Lazarus's best friend and preacher, and S.
Epatha Merkerson (from "Law & Order") as the pharmacist next door
who loves her some Samuel L. Jackson!
But, overall, the storytelling her just
didn't get me as fired up as "Hustle & Flow" did, and I'll admit to
having some expectations coming into this. Certainly, if you
haven't seen "Hustle & Flow", see "Black Snake Moan" when it comes
out in two weeks then rent the previous film...I think you will be
happy that you did. I still wanted to leave the theater last
night and yell "WHOOP DAT TRICK! WHOOP DAT TRICK!", but it
just seemed a tad bit inappropriate.
Comments? Drop me a line at
Bellview Rating System:
"Opening Weekend": This is
the highest rating a movie can receive. Reserved for movies that
exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development,
setting...or Salma Hayek. Not necessarily in that order.
"$X.XX Show": This price
changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently,
it is the $9.50 Show. While not technically perfect, this is a
movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.
"Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca",
but you'll have a great time watching. The $9.50 Show won't win any
Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see
"Matinee": An average movie
that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.
Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about
yourself. A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave
the theater saying "That wasn't too bad...man, did you see that
Lakers game last night?"
"Rental": This rating
indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your
friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one." Mostly forgettable, you
couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to
watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the
video store was out of copies of "Ronin." If you can, see this
movie for free. This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a
"Hard Vice": This rating is
the bottom of the barrel. A movie that only six other human beings
have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen. A Shannon
Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every
one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a
movie. Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or
"Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this
movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!
(Warning: strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard