Black Snake Moan

Director: Craig Brewer

Reviewed by Paghat the Ratgirl

Black Snake Moan Samuel Jackson plays Lazarus who has just lost his wife. He's a sad old angry broken man.

Christina Ricci is Rae Duel, a seedy white trash gal on the swift & downward path to ruin. Her man has gone away to fight Bush's war & with him goes her last tiny chance at salvation.

As things develop in Black Snake Moan (2006), Ronnie (Justin Timberlake, in a performance that merits considerable respect) washes out of the National Guard, returning home much sooner than anyone could've guessed. Even so, by then Rae is missing.

He suffers from extreme anxiety attacks, & she has the ability to calm him, ease his fear & trauma; he can't easily get by without her. He'll set armed & ready to kill if that's what it takes to find her & bring her home.

Unfortunately, he's never been provide the same calming influence for Rae when she has her spells of slutty behavior & self-laothing, born of childhood abuse.

It might not be the best thing for Ronny that Rae's nowhere to be found, as his coping skills aren't that great. But for Rae, who can say for certain whether all roads lead to perdition. Some of the hardest roads could well lead to salvation.

Black Snake MoanThe story for the most part is a two-actor tour de force for Ricci & Jackson. No matter how great the supporting roles, it's the two central figures who will haunt the viewer a long, long while.

Selectively chosen stills would make this look like a rare example of an A-cast bondage flick, & it is that too. But oh man it's so much more.

The bluesy soundtrack sets an amazing mood for Black Snake Moan. Beyond the fabulous soundtrack & the film's title to match, it goes much further than one would expect of a major Hollywood production in not being just another product. The acting is stunning; the characters portrayed are strange & twisted; & the story possesses a shocking originality.

Lazarus goes on a rampage at home destroying everything that had belonged to his unfaithful wife, then takes up his old blues guitar to soothe his own temper. About the same time, Rae has gone on a sex & booze & drugs binge. She nearly gets herself beaten to death by a man she mistook for a friend. He leaves her for dead at the side of a country road.

She's got pneumonia & is barely conscious when Lazarus finds her on the road near his isolated farm. She wakes half crazed & scares him shitless. He's convinced this gal has an actual devil in her.

He nurses her terrible injuries & illness while she has appalling nightmares & delusions. But she's in the hands of the first man ever to take care of her who didn't take advantage of her nymphoid nature for his own delights, who treated her as might a concerned parent, not that she'd know what a concerned parent looked like.

Black Snake MoanLest anyone mistake Lazarus for a normal helpful healthy guy, however, we mustn't forget he does suspect she's possessed. When her fever's broken & she's got her senses back, she discovers she's chained to a radiator, like a mad dog.

Lazarus has it in his mind that since he saved her life, he has the right to keep her chained up until he can cure her wicked mind as well.

He continues to feed & nurse & exercise her like a beloved hound. His perverse morality is well-intended, & however cracked in the head he must be, Rae can't help but respond to the other reality of her situation, that someone is taking care of her with complete selflessness.

Without radical interference Rae would certainly have been dead inside of a month, or at most a year, her self-destruction having only one possible outcome. And since she was in no frame of mind to respond to normal, rational assistance (even supposing anyone cared enough about her to assist), it may well be that only a well-meaning deeply depressed nutcase like Lazarus could've saved her. And we never doubt he'll do that much for her, even if what he's doing could get him twenty years to life.

By the time he lets her loose, & plays the blues number "Black Snake Moan" for her, the film has grown to mythic depths. They're like divinities of pain teaching one another how compassion works, two lost souls finding their way back from the dark side.

He'd been a blues man once & Rae brings him sufficient healing that he's ready to play the honkytonks again. By story's end their mutual healing has still only just begun. For all the tale's groddy vulgarity & perversity, it tugs with real beauty & honesty at the heart. It's a great film, I promise.

copyright by Paghat the Ratgirl

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