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Black Snake Moan: Gothic, But Not Great

Almost everyone who has seen the trailer for Black Snake Moan has the same question: Is this movie for real? The answer: well, sort of.

The premise, admittedly, sounds like a joke: A blues musician named Lazarus (Samuel L. Jackson) chains the town tramp, Rae (Christina Ricci), to a radiator in order to cure her of her wickedness. But don't worry: Though writer-director Craig Brewer expects us to consider the film as a thoughtful work of art, Black Snake Moan is meant to be outlandish — more gothic allegory than realistic drama.

As a huge fan of Brewer's last film, Hustle & Flow, I really wanted to like this movie. What surprised me was why I disliked it, so

Believe it or not, the wacky premise isn't the problem. From the gratuitous (and hot) opening sex scene between Rae and her beau Ronnie (Justin Timberlake), I was willing to go along with the fact that this woman's nymphomania was so intense that the moment Ronnie leaves town, she is forced to screw everything in site. It even seemed plausible that this behavior could get her beat up and left by the side of the road, only to be discovered by well-meaning Laz. Hell, I was even going along with the whole chained-to-the-radiator thing out of admiration for what Brewer was trying to do.

Specifically, the director fashions a sort of grotesque Southern-gothic tale that reminds me of the novels of Harry Crews. Thanks to a fateful meeting, two damaged people come together to fend off each other's demons. Amid this, Jackson is quite capable as the bewildered healer, while Ricci is appropriately reflective or haughty when she needs to be.

My main problem with Black Snake Moan, frankly, is that I was bored about a quarter of the way in. Beyond the premise and the flimsy plot, there's really just not much to it. For a movie that starts with such a bang, it's startlingly devoid of tension throughout. We're supposed to believe that Laz helps Rae overcome her sickness while she becomes his muse, reawakening his passion for the blues. But really, we never see or feel much connection to these characters, who in the end are frustratingly one dimensional.

Black Snake Moan didn't make me give up on Craig Brewer: I still think he's a director worth watching. I just wish I could say the same thing for the movie.

Photos courtesy of Paramount Vantage

Join The Conversation
XDeexDeeX XDeexDeeX 10 years
I saw the preview and didn't think it was that exciting. I mean how much can you make movie about just a slut?
willa06 willa06 10 years
omg i thought it was amazing!! a little weird but it was soooo good. the ending had me in tears. it was very touching if you got past the weirdness of some parts.
Padraigin Padraigin 10 years
I reviewed it for a local mag and have to say that I actually liked it and wasn't bored at all. Movies are very subjective (most of the time) and I like the way Buzz does her reviews - she makes it clear that it's HER opinion, not fact. Great job, buzz!
miss915 miss915 10 years
aww my mom wont let me see it..which makes me wanna see it more
LoveStoned LoveStoned 10 years
IDK, I liked/loved it. Its not exactly the type of movie you go see, just to see; you have to actually sit down and think about it. Definitely not a surface movie. ***"And yet, let them scorn me as they will, strong traits of their nature have intertwined themselves with mine."- Nathaniel Hawthorne
sashak sashak 10 years
I don't care. I'm gonna see it anyway! :)
Entertainment Entertainment 10 years
Kendalheart, I actually reviewed Zodiac today and really liked it a lot: You should go see it!
kendalheart kendalheart 10 years
I was really hoping it would be a good one! All the movies i have wanted to see lately have bad reviews like this one, 23 and zodiak!~
Lindsb Lindsb 10 years
Aw, man.. I was really hoping this one would get better reviews. I'll probably watch it just to say I watched the opening sex scene. Hahaha. I was hoping this would be Christina's break. Oh well. Thanks for the great review, buzz.
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