Craig Brewer’s debut film, “Hustle and Flow,” garnered critical praise for its raw, stripped down Southern feel as well as a Best Actor Oscar nomination for Terrence Howard. His latest effort, “Black Snake Moan,” proves that he’s no fluke.
“Black Snake Moan” opens with both main characters in varying degrees of distress. Blues guitarist Lazarus (Samuel L. Jackson) finds out his wife is on the verge of leaving him for his brother and you can believe he’s not happy. “My father told me that a young woman would suck me dry,” retorts the angry Lazarus. Instead of taking out his anger on her, he destroys her prize rose bush.
Meanwhile on the other side town, we meet the constantly sex-starved Rae (Christina Ricci), who sleeps with three men in the film before some moviegoers can get in their seats. Her beloved, Ronnie (Justin Timberlake), is off to the National Guard leaving her unattended, but not for long. After a night of pill-popping and drinking, the inebriated woman is beat down and left in the road where Lazarus discovers her.
But the two lives are on an inevitable collision course that will ultimately change both of their troubled lives.
Rae has been beaten badly and Lazarus comes to her aid. Only after she has had several “fever” dreams and wandered around his property that Lazarus comes to a realization, “keep your friends close, but truly confused closer.” She wakes up to find herself chained to his radiator. The story truly begins here as the two begin to emotionally feel each other out. Lazarus finds out that Rae has a “special condition” that’s another phrase for her being a nymphomaniac. The spiritually-grounded Lazarus takes this as a personal challenge to “fix her.”
His problems are just beginning because it looks pretty suspicious in the deep south for a Black man to have a White woman chained against her will in his home. One hilarious scene underlies the cautionary tale of what happens when one gets “too close” to a person in Rae’s condition.
Jackson easily gives his strongest performance since “A Time to Kill.” As the broken-hearted blues musician, he displays an amazing amount of tenderness while flashing his trademark Jackson scowl. His passionate performance drives this film and makes it the first important film of 2007.
Where Brewer’s gritty “Hustle and Flow” featured rap music, “Black Snake Moan” is gut-bucket Blues companion. Featuring a wonderful script and incredible performances from Jackson, Ricci and Timberlake, this film soars. The film seems to suggest that the way to salvation is to save someone else. One thing for sure, “Black Snake Moan” has provided box-office salvation to us all.