Black Snake Moan
Review by Jack Foley
CRAIG Brewer’s gutsy follow-up to the Oscar-nominated Hustle & Flow bears all the hallmarks of car crash viewing – it’s often unpleasant but you just can’t take your eyes off it.
The film exists in extremely murky territory and often feels voyeuristic but is almost redeemed by the quality of its performances alone… almost.
Samuel L Jackson stars as God-fearing, divorced blues musician Lazarus whose past glories have recently been overshadowed by bitterness and booze.
When he finds smalltown nymphomaniac Rae (Christina Ricci) lying in the middle of the road, battered, bruised and semi-naked, he takes her home and shackles her to the radiator in a bid to “cure” her sexual cravings, thereby beginning an unlikely path to redemption for both of them.
Brewer’s film, while certainly audacious, is eventually let down by an inconsistent tone that sits uncomfortably alongside its challenging subject matter.
Rae’s story, in particular, is poorly handled despite the best efforts of Ricci in the role given that Brewer seems more interested in displaying her in various states of undress (that’s vest top and knickers for most of the time) than really fleshing out her character. It makes a mockery of the issues of child abuse that lie beneath the surface.
Jackson, too, sometimes resorts to hysterical over-acting to try and relay some of his character’s wilder tendencies.
And yet the film somehow manages to avoid feeling like the complete disaster it really ought to be.
The unpleasantness of its early excess eventually gives rise to a heart-warming conclusion and it’s difficult not to appreciate the commitment of the stars in trying to make the story convince.
Jackson is better than he’s been for a long time, Ricci handles all that Brewer throws at her with spiky determination and even Justin Timberlake manages to hold his own during the handful of scenes he shares as Rae’s equally troubled boyfriend.
The Deep South backdrop is well-realised and there’s a keen sense of the blues.
But try as hard as it might, Black Snake Moan struggles to overcome the sensationalist approach that undermines the sensitive nature of its central themes. It’s a redemptive tale in need of its own salvation.
Running time: 116mins