Movie review: ‘Black Snake Moan’

By Stacie Wieland

Rae (Christina Ricci) is a victim of childhood abuse inflicted by her father, and suffers from an anxiety-induced, insatiable sexual appetite. Lazarus (Samuel L. Jackson) is a God-fearing man whose life has started to mimic the blues he used to play. The two meet one morning by chance – Rae lies beaten and left for dead on the quiet country road near Laz’s house, and he takes her in. As he nurses her back to health, he discovers her salacious dealings with the men in town and decides to cure her of her wickedness by employing the use of scripture and some questionable ethics.

“Black Snake Moan” could have been a great movie, despite the decidedly unsettling situation of seeing someone chained, against their will, to a radiator. It could’ve been a bizarrely persuasive saga of healing and redemption trapped inside a faith-based, quasi-BDSM exterior. One cannot deny the palpable chemistry between Ricci and Jackson. And the soundtrack to this strange tale is completely unforgettable – provocative and stirring, the gritty, soulful blues melodies create a convincing atmosphere. All the elements come together to create a story bursting with potential, but it falls just short.

While the set-up and execution of the whole peculiar situation works well, the end of the film abruptly changes the entire tone of the film, and not in a good way. It feels as though the ending was proposed by people in suits who didn’t want to see any more therapeutic bondage or bear witness to any more emotional pain. Everything is wrapped up too quickly, too cleanly, too suddenly. The audience is supposed to believe that Rae goes through a personal transformation, and while there are definitive glimpses of development and change within her character, it seems too rushed and too forced.