Black Snake Moan (2006)

Despite a horribly misleading cover art, Black Snake Moan exceeded my wildest expectations. Going in I had assumed this was some kind of a neo-exploitation movie where after having suddenly self-diagnosed himself with an acute case of jive turkey fever, Samuel L. Jackson decided it’d be a good idea to kidnap and imprison a white trailer trash girl, with the possible end game being some kind of a twisted “is it true true love or just Stockholm syndrome” conundrum leading to a messy and violent climax, but apparently this was not the case at all. Instead what we had here was a very unusual and interesting blues accompanied  drama about, amongst other things, nymphomania, child abuse, panic attacks and overcoming your troubles, all via a highly unconventional vehicle of chaining young girls up to a radiator to tell the story.

On one hand, I really wanted an exploitation movie with Jackson acting erratic and Ricci being a helpless but a bit sexy victim who might go through a psychological USMC boot camp equivalent of character building to toughen up and maybe slay her kidnapper in the final reel. You know, trashy but kinda campy good old fun. But then again, when you by accident find yourself in a movie with much more depth and pathos to it than you had expected, it’s not a bad thing. You might actually walk away from it with a  much better feelings than you would have had you been in the known when you pressed play.

What can I say about the casting? Ricci does remarkable work being trashy, pathetic, sad, sexy but pitiful all more or less at the same time. She really shines in her role and if she wasn’t so good, the movie would basically fall apart because she, and more specifically overcoming her emotional troubles, is the heart of the story. With a lesser actor the entire thing might come off pretentious. I wish she would choose more roles of this stature. Now, I could have lived with little to no Justin Timberlake. He wasn’t awful, but he just was not very engaging as a character and felt a bit out of place whenever he was on camera, something he wouldn’t fix until years later in Trouble with the Curve.  Sam Jackson is always good, depending on the strength of the script and he was might fine in this. His piety mixed with his boiling rage under the surface  made for a very fun role. He also played mean guitar and sang even meaner blues, the few songs he plays during the movie were a real delight, I had completely forgotten how good of a singer he could be.

If nothing else, you will walk away from this movie with the desire to listen to the soundtrack and Jackson singing about how he shot that motherfucker Billy Lyons down with his  shiny .44. That if anything is a mark of a good movie.

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