Christina Ricci wearing cut off jean shorts and a confederate flag top. Samuel Jackson sporting a half bald, trendy southern man look while spouting off bible lines and holding Ricci against her will. There are only two words that come to mind: I'm in.
When I first saw the trailers appear both online and on television, I thought that Black Snake Moan might just be another marketing ploy by a company hoping on capitalizing on the previous success Jackson had in Pulp Fiction due to the use of the word pulp in the ads as well as the grittiness of the film itself. I'm glad I was wrong.
What the film does best is juxtapose two lives at turning points when they are at their worst in regards to love. Neither understands it and neither can turn it down. Both characters have demons and both don't want to face them. That is until they encounter each other.
Ricci plays Rae, a young woman with a sex addiction caused by child abuse, whose only love, Ronnie, played by Justin Timberlake, leaves for the military early on in the film to try and make something of his white trash existence. Jackson plays Lazarus, an aging blues singer whose wife just left him to be with his brother.
As Rae gives in to her carnal urges to every man she can, including at one point a 15-year-old boy, she hits bottom and runs across the wrong man who subsequently beats her and leaves her for dead on the side of the road. Of course, Lazarus soon finds her and nurses her back to health while finding out who she is from people in town.
After Lazarus learns about who she is and just how bad she's become, he decides to help her by curing her of her 'wickedness', which means chaining her by the waist to a heater in his house.
What makes the film more than just a gimmick flick that relies on chaining a hot, half naked chick up S&M style is that the acting is impressive, the direction right on, and the story going the way we want but not necessarily how we might expect.
In previous roles, Ricci has played troubled characters who didn't really seem to come through and make an impact. Thankfully, the acting skills everyone knew were simply resting beneath the surface have finally broken through and allowed her to deliver the best performance of the year thus far. Although, that's not saying much considering the competition so far, being that it's still early, she will most likely hold up and possibly earn an Oscar nomination for next year, but you never know in Hollywood.
Perhaps the best surprise of the film is the use of music. I often find myself squirming in my seat when an actor picks up an instrument and starts squealing out a tune thinking they have just as much talent in music as in acting. This time it was different. Jackson could carry a tune well enough for you to believe in his character and the use of the music made you feel what the characters felt: a spiritual release of pain.
I know what you might be thinking. This film seems either too weird or too stupid to be worth seeing. But in the end all that matters are the first things I mentioned: Ricci chained up and Jackson as a bluesman. It's fun, it's novel, but most of all it's got enough meaning to deserve a look see.