Blake Snake Moan is bluesy, ballsy and a heck of a good time

***½ / *****

Last weekend, “Wild Hogs” reigned supreme at the box office, grossing an absurd $39.7 million. So while a better portion of the American movie-going public witnessed Tim Allen and John Travolta’s careers catch fire and perish in the massive explosion known as “the road trip film,” a truly unique Southern-gothic movie called “Black Snake Moan” was tragically lost in the shuffle.

Director Craig Brewer follows up his critically successful “Hustle and Flow” with this hard-boiled, southern-fried tale of sex, love, redemption and salvation. On paper, the premise for “Black Snake Moan” appears completely outlandish. In the humid backwoods of the deep south, Godly bluesman Lazarus (Samuel L. Jackson) finds Rae (Christina Ricci), a self-abusing nymphomaniac, unconscious and half-naked on the side of the road. Determined to cure the young Rae of her “wickedness,” Lazarus promptly chains her to his radiator.

I know, it’s ludicrous. But this highly unique premise is more-than-sufficiently supported by the skillful plot execution, superb soundtrack and stellar performances from the likes of Sam Jackson, Christina Ricci and Justin Timberlake (who portrays Rae’s anxiety-ridden boyfriend). Jackson strays a bit from his usual (by “usual” I mean jive-talking tough guys and hit men) and gives a memorable turn as the guitar-plucking, heartbroken Lazarus.

Ricci is fantastic as well, playing for sympathy as well as laughs with the vulnerable yet aggressive Rae. With “Black Snake Moan,” she proves herself as one of the most versatile and intriguing young actresses of her generation. As for Justin Timberlake … well, I was pleasantly surprised. For one, I wasn’t even aware going into the film that he was in it (you can imagine my shock). And second, he’s actually a very competent young actor. He disproves this notion that singers can’t act, though I’m still pretty positive that actors can’t sing (Steven Segal, Bruce Willis – I’m looking in your direction).

“Black Snake Moan” sports an incredible soundtrack, which features songs from blues legends Son House and R.L. Burnside, as well as some decent vocal work from the snake-killer himself, Sam Jackson (which doesn’t put Bruce Willis or Steven Segal in the clear, mind you). The film is steeped in the gritty slide-guitar stylings of the South, as prevalent with good, old fashioned blues music as Brewer’s “Hustle and Flow” was with hip hop.

And though all of these elements make for an audacious and highly original little film, the experience has to be taken with a heaping spoonful of leniency. It’s strange, it’s sexy, it’s all together odd and somehow charming; but unless you go into “Black Snake Moan” with an open-mind and an itch for something different, you’re going to lose interest and fast.

But then again, when you have alternatives like “Wild Hogs” and “Ghost Rider” (movies that both, oddly enough, feature well-known actors ruining their careers atop motorcycles) ruling the weekend box-office, a weird and thoroughly enjoyable movie like “Black Snake Moan” is just what the bored movie-goer needs. So, treat yourself – scratch that itch.

1 comment:

  1. Through this ENTIRE film, I kept waiting for Samuel L Jackson to be like "YES I THINK THEY DESERVE TO DIE...AND I HOPE THEY BURN IN HELL!!!"


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