The lurid scenario--a nymphomaniacal white trash nymphet (Christina Ricci) is held prisoner by a bitter bluesman (Samuel L. Jackson)--gives way to an affecting tale of redemption in Black Snake Moan
, writer/director Craig Brewer's follow-up to the acclaimed Hustle & Flow
. Lazarus (Jackson, Jungle Fever, Pulp Fiction
) finds Rae (Ricci, Monster, The Ice Storm
) beaten unconscious on the road in front of his backwoods house. After bringing her inside, he learns of her wanton ways and decides to exorcise his own demons by curing Rae of her sexual compulsion. Black Snake Moan
could have been terrible, but Brewer takes his story seriously enough to dig into the genuine emotions of such a situation (though along the way he certainly flirts with sexploitation overtones--several scenes look like they were plucked straight out of a hitherto unknown 1970s trash classic). Ricci, Jackson, and the supporting cast (including pop star Justin Timberlake, giving a surprisingly good performance as Rae's boyfriend) treat the characters with respect, honesty, and humour. The result is off-kilter and maybe a little too fond of its sleazy cinematic forbears to truly hit the emotional notes it's after, but Black Snake Moan
has considerably more substance than its marketing would suggest. --Bret Fetzer
Christina Ricci and Samuel L. Jackson in a steamy southern tale of retribution and repentance. Rae (Ricci) is a bedeviled, troublesome and lubricious child whose life has been a series of sexual misadventures including having been sexually abused in early life. Lazarus (Jackson) is a former blues musician whose career has run aground due to self-imposed seclusion. Lazarus is himself tormented by inner demons - left a cuckold by a woman of easy virtue who took up with his own brother after a fling with his best friend. Lazarus finds Rae stretched out on a dirt road near his cabin after an attempted murder, he takes her in and tends her wounds. As Rae awakens, she's keen on repaying him in kind, using the only currency she understands - a notion the burned Lazarus finds abhorrent. He resolves to cure the girl with good old-fashioned virtue and the bible, much to her chagrin. Featuring a bit part by Justin Timberlake as Ronnie, Rae's anxious boyfriend, the film is a moody, clammy tale, with a pedigreed blues soundtrack, from Craig Brewer, the director of Hustle and Flow.