Black Snake Moan 

2007

 

The pitch for "Black Snake Moan" must have sounded like the stuff of a Seventies exploitation flick: Deep in the Mississippi Delta, an aging black bluesman (Samuel L. Jackson) comes across a curious discovery on the side of a road "? namely, a badly beaten, half-nekkid nymphomaniac (Christina Ricci). So what does the bluesman do? Why, he chains her to the radiator of his ramshackle home, of course, and bombards her with Bible verses and blues music.

 

From this outlandish premise comes a surprisingly affecting character-driven drama. Much as writer-director Craig Brewer did in his 2005 breakthrough, "Hustle & Flow," he breathes human complexity into people who initially seem like pulp-fiction stereotypes. "Black Snake Moan" is undeniably quirky and absurd, but it remains committed to the emotional honesty of its two protagonists. Jackson and Ricci give fearless performances, and even former 'N Sync singer Justin Timberlake shines in a supporting role.

 

The DVD includes a director's commentary and a handful of nifty mini-documentaries.

 

"?Phil Bacharach

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