A review of “Black Snake Moan” by Jeanne Aufmuth

 

Stars: * 1/2

Rating: R for nudity, language, sexuality and violence

Run Time: 1 hour, 56 minutes

 

 

It’s not a good sign when I leave a screening yearning for a hot shower. Unfortunately “Moan” elicits a potent desire to sponge off the sleaze.

It could be billed as a kinky love story but I don’t cotton to cornbread histrionics. Christina Ricci is the definition of wrong-side-of-tracks as Rae, a white-trash twenty-something renouncing her abusive childhood by playing the two-bit nympho.

On a collision course with a dirty destiny is Lazarus (Samuel L. Jackson), recently divorced and consumed by the hurt. He finds Rae curled up on the side of a country road – battered and bruised and victim of yet another small-town low-life who lets his extremities speak for his brain.

With a truckload of unease the God-fearing Lazarus tends to the ailing Rae, gathering up medicine and prepping ice baths to bring down her fever. But Rae’s smoldering heat isn’t a medical matter, no sirree, she’s got the burn inside of her.

Forced to face the fact that Rae has demons Lazarus endeavors to “save” her from her wickedness by chaining her to the radiator and preaching a bit of scripture, thus preventing her from late-night wanderings and the devil within. Theirs becomes a sticky co-dependence based on mutual pain and a desperate need for human connection.

Craig Brewer, who helmed 2005’s critically acclaimed “Hustle and Flow”, weaves the essence of the Deep South into every frame of “Moan” but pitches his bluesy sensibilities straight into the gutter, resulting in a tawdry B-movie melodrama that nonetheless benefits from his deft touch with a lens.

Both Jackson and Ricci chew up the scenery with maximum camp and minimum subtlety; a surly pairing based on emotional overload. The narrative positively chokes on Southern-fried clichés; ripe with preachers, pimps and hos and the healing power of the blues.

Much to my surprise Jackson picks a mean guitar along with a throaty baritone and Justin Timberlake – who doesn’t sing a lick – shows promise as Rae’s tortured lover Ronnie.

Raw, flawed and entirely forgettable.