Wednesday, July 04, 2007


The moan is blues

By Edward Copeland
For a movie whose central plot point concerns a young Southern sexpot chained to a radiator by a down-on-his-luck blues musician intent on changing her "wicked" ways, Craig Brewer's Black Snake Moan actually proves to be mostly a bore, despite some good performances.

Samuel L. Jackson stars as Lazarus (no subtlety there), a former blues guitarist living in an isolated cabin after splitting with his wife who had an affair with his brother.

Christina Ricci plays Rae, the town tart whose boyfriend Ronnie (Justin Timberlake) is leaving for the Army but who tends to take any man who comes her way, thanks to sexual abuse from her younger past. When Ronnie's friend (Michael Raymond-James) beats Rae and leaves her on a road when she spurns his advances, Lazarus finds the girl and takes her back to the cabin to nurse her wounds.

When she makes her usual seductive moves, Lazarus will have none of it and does what any reasonable person seeking an intervention would do: Grabs an extremely long length of chain and attaches Rae to his radiator until he can "cure her."

Brewer, who made the impressive Hustle & Flow, has a very intriguing premise, but somehow it just falls flat. It doesn't shock, inspire or affect you much in the ways of emotion. It also seems as if where the movie is headed is so preordained, that boredom sets in quickly.

Despite that, Jackson and Ricci both turn in good performances and Jackson is impressive in the scenes where he performs the blues as well. There also are solid supporting turns by John Cothran Jr. as a minister, S. Epatha Merkeson as a drug store worker who catches Lazarus' eye and Kim Richards as Rae's bitter mother.

Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for Justin Timberlake, which is quite a disappointment after his well-acted turn earlier this year in Alpha Dog. He never quite gets a handle on Ronnie and some of his histrionics end up being downright embarrassing.

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