Black Snake Moan is much in the same vein as writer/director Craig Brewer’s previous work, Hustle and Flow. He has an interesting vision of the contemporary South and its inhabitants, particularly in Memphis and West Tennessee, where this film is set. As with Hustle and Flow, music plays a powerful role in the film’s development and his depiction of our culture is authentic and familiar.
Despite its somewhat silly premise involving a hot blond nymphomaniac and her National Guardsman boyfriend and what happens to her once duty calls him, the picture has a surprisingly engaging plot. It’s a character study with few bells and whistles, but it flows smoothly and keeps the viewer involved.
With all of his tricks of the trade, I’ve never seen Sam Jackson with a guitar across his lap. Not only is he convincing, but he appears to play a mean slide guitar. He’s terrific here as a blues man aged well beyond his years due to time spent under the sun in his garden, broken-hearted since his wife left him for his younger brother.
When Lazarus discovers Rae across from his land, battered and bruised, he finds it his calling to nurture her, or as he so bluntly puts it: “I aim to cure you of your wickedness.”
Granted, he chains this pretty young thing to his radiator, but his intentions are pure as this man has strength and character exponential. He just happens to live by his own rules.
Shamefully, Christina Ricci seems a little lost in her role. Though she does writhing white trash well, when the camera lingers over her body too long without showing her face, she could just as easily be Juliette Lewis, Jaime Pressley or any nameless half-dressed blond. Ricci is better than that, but it doesn’t show here.
As her affectionate and understanding lover, Timberlake is endearing and sweet, more subdued than his last foray into acting in Alpha Dog. The role also gives him a chance to show off his range and his roots, including his southern accent, more or less abandoned since his youth in Millington, Tenn.