By Fred Topel | Images property of Paramount Vintage.
Black Snake Moan
I didn't have any huge expectations for Black Snake Moan. I thought the plot was interesting and I liked the actors, but I didn't expect anything more than a good movie. That's all I thought of Hustle and Flow. It was a good Hollywood story of a pimp with a heart of gold realizing his dream, but not some cinematically redefining opus. Black Snake Moan is even safer, despite its controversial promise.
Movie Review: Black Snake Moan
God fearing blues man Lazarus (Samuel L. Jackson) finds town slut Rae (Christina Ricci) beaten up on the road, so he takes her in. When he sees her nymphomania consuming her, he decides to chain her to his radiator until he can cure the sickness out of her. Misery in reverse or not, the story runs out of steam halfway through.
The sexuality is handled perfectly. Ricci's little body is beautiful with her tight tummy and strong legs, even when she's tarted up and dazed in her own filth. There is some full toplessness, though she's marked up, so boys won't have to freeze frame looking for nipple slips. But Ricci is convincingly helpless to her primal urges, and when she strikes, she is a powerful force of passion. Rapes are portrayed with appropriate import and no exploitation.
Lazarus is never a missionary. His religious impulses come out sparingly. He has a voice for blues too. We knew it was good for screaming about motherf***in' snakes but he could have had a music career, if blues paid half as much as his quarterly film appearances.
The setup is gripping, especially because the blues score gives everything a unique tone to the usual Williams/Horner/Zimmer movie scores. When Rae is first chained up, she explores her limits including a great scene of Lazarus dragging her and another artistic sequence of wrapping herself up in links.
Then there's just nowhere to go. They start talking about their feelings and being the healing process, and it's like Dr. Phil. Rae confronts some people and deals with resisting her traumatic urges, but it's just an extended therapy session. That's not really drama.
Black Snake Moan betrays its own potential of taut psychological back and forth, opting instead to solve its characters emotional issues. The emotional issues should have been confronted through drama. It's like they just abandon the premise and work things out the old fashioned way. What a letdown.