When smalltown tramp (and former sexual abuse victim) Rae (Ricci) is raped and left for dead,
God-fearing, divorced blues musician Lazarus (Jackson) takes her into his home, shackles her to the radiator and tries to make her change her nympho ways.
How many times have you seen a movie and wondered what the hell everyone was thinking? After all, it’s a process that requires an awful lot of effort. First you need a script, then a director, some stars, maybe a studio or just a businessman with deep pockets, but whatever the palaver, it boils down to one thing: at some point, everybody will get together, some of them will stand in front of a camera and act the damn thing out while everyone else is standing around in the video village watching the playback and saying, “Yep, that’s where the money’s going.”
Normally, if this thought occurs to you while you’re actually sitting in the cinema, this is a pretty bad thing. It brings to mind the penis song from The Sweetest Thing, the incomprehensible non-climax of the yet-to-be-released Southland Tales, or the entirety of Freddy Got Fingered. But sometimes that thought isn’t a measure of a film’s failure but a slack-jawed reaction to its success. In theory, Black Snake Moan ought to be a copper-bottomed stinker, but in reality it’s a flawed but strangely charming morality tale, a conservative fairy tale despite its steamy, quasi-porno trimmings.
It’s hard to say from where precisely the film gets its integrity, but it’s safe to start with Samuel L. Jackson. Although Christina Ricci is the star who appears to be taking a risk, rolling round in distractingly pristine white pants and a pointless top that doesn’t seem to be designed to cover anything at all, it’s Jackson who faces the task of not only carrying the film but saving it, and himself, from derision. Indeed, although Jackson’s never been one to shy away from tricky material, his Lazarus seems more like one of Danny Glover’s creations, a witty and intelligent subversion of the ongoing movie stereotyping that still doesn’t quite know what to do with African-American men, casting them as slaves, drug dealers, crooks or God.
Jackson’s performance is vital to the film’s success, and he alone pulls the film back from its supreme, what-were-they-thinking? moment, when Lazarus takes the 40-foot chain and shackles Ricci’s almost comically lascivious Rae to the radiator. It will be almost impossible to enter a cinema showing this film, or rent the DVD, without knowing this is going to happen. But still there’s that frisson: he won’t... he can’t... Ohmigod, he just did. After the confused, and confusing, sexual politics of his last film, Hustle & Flow, which invited us to root for a pimp, this again takes some balls from writer/director Craig Brewer, and once more his leading man saves his neck. Though the film flirts with hot-button American issues of race, sex, and interracial sex, the real story is one of redemption, which Jackson conveys with an unusually tender sense of grace.
Sadly, the remainder of the film doesn’t measure up to this. Brewer’s script ultimately skews towards the twee, painting Rae as a good ol’ girl who’s been messed up by a bad childhood and is now simply looking for the love of a good man. Ricci gives it her best shot, and fans of celebrity skin will sing hosanna when they see how much screen time she’s prepared to give her norks, but Rae needs more depth than simply reason. Still, even this could have been worse; Ricci is ably and unexpectedly backed by Justin Timberlake as her soldier boyfriend. It’s a performance that, together with Alpha Dog, presents him as a surprisingly impressive new talent. Between the three of them, Jackson, Ricci and Timberlake rescue a potentially dire film from becoming camp, fashioning an entertaining and unique oddity that stands out, big time, from the crowd.
Sam Jackson delivers the electric blues in a not-so-blue movie that promises more Deep South sin than it actually delivers.
Reviewed by Damon Wise
Excellent! An epic turn from Samuel L. Jackson is reason enough alone to give this one a shot. Ricci is superb as well. The film does have some flaws, but I thought overall it was very enjoyable. ... More
Posted by Turd Ferguson at 17:14, 31 January 2012 | Report This Post
|From four to five because of sheer ambition, brilliantly shot and acted|
If your thirsty for something different, get off your asses and watch it ... More
Posted by monkeyhumour at 06:07, 22 May 2010 | Report This Post
Ignore the controversy. This is a solid drama with a great performance by Ricci, and fine work by Jackson and Timberlake. A little strange and some concern about sexism and degradation of women but still has a solid message about finding yourself and personal acceptance. ... More
Posted by lynnshep at 01:45, 01 February 2008 | Report This Post
Great film. who cares about a freaking poster...does "dont judge a book by it's cover" ring a bell. I pre-order my copy from imoovie.com so i can add to my collection ... More
Posted by mbrown007 at 21:36, 18 June 2007 | Report This Post
| RE: RE:|
"A poster in search of a movie"
While I disagree with the sentiment, I quite liked the movie-strange and flawed as it is, but it's nice to see people tear their opinions word for word from TotalFilm's reviews... *sigh* ... More
Posted by Driver 8 at 17:41, 24 May 2007 | Report This Post
I must admit that I found this film incredibly odd and as moviemaniac suggests it felt like they came up with the poster image of a chained Christina Ricci and went with that and tried to build a movie around it.
I think they were going for a Southern American gothic tone but the result comes off as exploitative, designed to shock for shock's sake and an attempt to imitate the excesses of Tarantino's visual style and language from giving Samuel L. Jackson bible passages to the shooti... More
Posted by Groovy Mule at 13:38, 24 May 2007 | Report This Post
a poster in search of a movie- obe of the most distasteful pieces of crap ever. only Ricci kept the film going. ... More
Posted by moviemaniac2 at 10:29, 24 May 2007 | Report This Post