Now this is one of those movies that when you first saw the trailer for it, you didn’t quite know what you were going to get. I mean, is this a racially charged drama or some sort of a soft core porn disguised as a big budget picture. I have to be honest, nothing about this movie really enticed me into seeing this movie in theaters when it first came out. About a year later, during a dark time in my life, I wound up renting it from Blockbuster only to have the copy I rented be damaged and unable to play. I took it back and tried to grab another copy only to find they were all out. Well, this just served to make me want to watch it even more and I ended up just buying a used copy, because at the time it made sense. So that, dear readers, is how I ended up with a copy of Black Snake Moan, yet another of my random Blockbuster purchases.
The plot: In a small, rural Tennessee town, Lazarus Redd meets with his wife Rose, who had been having an affair with his brother, and he tries to convince her to come to church for counselling but she refuses, saying she doesn’t love him anymore. As she goes to leave, Lazarus grabs her hand and tells her he will pray for her over what she did to him and she yells at him before storming out of the diner. Meanwhile, Rae Doole and her boyfriend, Ronnie Morgan, are having sex before Ronnie begins packing to leave for deployment with the National Guard, though he suffers from severe anxiety disorder. As he goes to leave, he gives Rae a watch that is synchronized to his, so that when the alarm goes off, they will know the other is thinking of them. As Ronnie gets his friend Gill to give him a lift, Rae chases after Gills truck before falling to the ground.She then starts moaning to herself and rubbing her legs before succumbing to her nyphomaniac tendencies and ends up sleeping with a man named Tehronne. Afterwards, she asks him for money and a ride into town and as she walks to the store, she is shocked to see her mom working there and quickly leaves. Elsewhere, Lazarus gets some supplies for his farm and heads home to begin working the yard when he ends up running over his wife’s flower beds with his tractor. That night, Lazarus is having a beer at the bar as a woman starts flirting with him but Lazarus is currently sour on women after what his wife did to him. When Lazarus’ brother enters the bar, the bartender warns Lazarus to keep his cool. Lazarus’ brother tries to apologize for hurting him and as they start to argue, Lazarus breaks a bottle and threatens to use it on him before leaving the bar and returning home, where he begins playing the guitar and singing a blues song about his cheating wife. Elsewhere, Rae is at a party with some friends when she takes some drugs and ends up having sex with a random guy at the party. As she stumbles around in a pair of panties and some shoulder pads, Gill walks up to her and takes the pads off before taking her home. Along the way, he pulls over and comments about her cheating on Ronnie all the time and tries to have sex with her but when she laughs at him, he gets mad and starts beating her. When he stops, Rae isn’t moving and, thinking he killed her, he dumps her out of her truck and drives off, leaving her on the side of the road in her panties and a skimpy t-shirt. The next morning, Lazarus is taking some trash to the side of the road for pick-up when he sees Rae on the side of the road. He goes to check on her and when she begins coughing, he brings her to his house to tend to her. As Lazarus tries to talk to her, Rae incoherently mutters Tehronne’s name and Lazarus thinks he did this to her and heads out to town to get some medicine for her and speaks with Angela, the local pharmacist, who talks briefly with her before going to get some medicine for him. After getting his medicine, Lazarus leaves and starts to head home when he sees Tehronne’s car and heads to the nearby pool hall to talk with him. Lazarus talks with Tehronne about Rae, thinking he is the one to beat her, but Tehronne denies it and simply says that she is a freak who has sex with anyone when her boyfriend isn’t around, calling it a sickness. At Lazarus’ house, Rae continues to have hallucinations and ends up falling to the floor, where Lazarus finds her. As he tries to help her up, she kisses him and then begins writhing on the floor, disturbing Lazarus and causing him to rush out of the house before running a cold bath to try and break Rae’s fever. Later that night, Rae, still in a delirium, ends up running through Lazarus’ vegetable garden looking for Ronnie when Lazarus finds her. He brings her back inside and helps her get back to sleep, then heads out to his barn and grabs a length of chain that he has in there. The next morning, Rae wakes up and is apparently feeling better, but is somewhat leery of Lazarus. She goes to leave when she discovers that Lazarus has chained her to his radiator and Lazarus tries to explain the chain but Rae refuses to listen and starts screaming for help as she runs outside. The chain prevents her from getting far and as she scream for help, Lazarus tells her that nobody is coming and when she refuses to come inside, he uses the chain to drag her inside. Lazarus tells her it is his spiritual duty to cure her of her sinful ways, which he feels is why she was left for dead by his house and tries his best to tend to her but she doesn’t seem overly receptive to his help. The next day, Lazarus heads into town to get some clothes for Rae and while he is gone, she wakes up and begins snooping around his house. Eventually, a young teenage boy named Lincoln shows up, as he had promised to help Lazarus on his farm and when Lazarus returns some time later, he chases Lincoln out of his house, as he had been having sex with Rae. As Lincoln runs off, Lazarus’ pastor R.L. shows up and Lazarus tells him to leave, as he doesn’t want anyone around and R.L. takes offense to Lazarus’ attitude. When Lazarus threatens to shoot him, R.L. grabs the gun and points it at his chest, then grabs the gun from Lazarus when he refuses to pull the trigger, then asks him what is the problem. When R.L. sees Rae chained to the radiator, he yells at Lazarus and asks what he is thinking and Lazarus tells him he hasn’t touched her and found her on the road by his house and was trying to care for her. R.L. asks about the chain and Lazarus tries to explain it, then asks that R.L. talk to her while he goes and talks with Lincoln, who was hiding in his barn. Later, Lazarus is fixing dinner and Rae, who puts on one of the dresses that Lazarus bought her, helps out, then sits at the table with Lazarus, R.L., and Lincoln as they eat dinner. Meanwhile, Ronnie has returned to town, having been discharged by the army for his anxiety, and he runs into Gill at the bar. Lazarus asks Gill if he has seen Rae and Gill lies about her at first, saying she is probably around somewhere, but eventually tells him the truth about Rae’s antics when he is gone. Ronnie doesn’t believe him and the two end up fighting before Ronnie steals Gill’s truck and goes looking for Rae. Back at Lazarus’ house, Lazarus and Rae are sharing some moonshine when Lazarus unlocks the chain, saying that he doesn’t have the right to judge her or try to change her life. Rae asks Lazarus to play a song for her and as he plays, a storm starts brewing outside and a scared Rae asks that he keep playing and singing. The next day, Lazarus takes Rae into town with him so she can confront her mother about their past while he sells his vegetables. While Rae is gone, Angela approaches Lazarus and invites him to a picnic lunch with her and the two sit on a bench and talk. Meanwhile, Rae approaches her mother and confronts her about how her mother’s boyfriend had sexually abused her as a kid while she was in the next room and did nothing to stop it. Rae gets upset when her mother denies anything happened and attacks her, causing a commotion that attracts Lazarus’ attention and he rushes into the store and helps her out, awkwardly refusing to meet Angela’s stare when she sees him with Rae. Back at his house, Lazarus works on comforting Rae and then decides they should go out for the night. As they head to the bar, where Lazarus is going to play with his old band, Rae’s alarm goes off on her watch and as she turns it off, she hears the alarm going off nearby and looks around but when she doesn’t see anything, she heads inside with Lazarus. Lazarus is surprised to see the place jam packed with people and he tells Rae to get a seat near the corner of the stage while he performs but soon Rae is dancing and having a good time, unaware that Ronnie is watching them through the window. The next morning, Lazarus is woken up by Rae trying to play one of his guitars and he sits down with her and plays while she sings when Ronnie sneaks into the room and strikes Lazarus. Pointing his pistol at Lazarus, he starts at yelling at them for what he believes she was doing and Lazarus taunts him about wanting to kill him. Lazarus’s taunting eventually overwhelms Ronnie, who collapses to the ground, and as Rae goes to comfort him, Lazarus hooks his phone up and calls R.L. and asks him to come over to talk to them. As R.L. talks with them and tries to help them through their issues, Lazarus heads over to Angela’s house to apologize and asks her a favor. Back at Lazarus’ house, Rae and Ronnie have decided to get married and Lazarus, who has become a father figure to Rae, gives her away. As the two drive off, Lazarus and Angela hold each other’s hands as they watch them leave. Rae and Ronnie are driving down the highway and when they become boxed in by some tractor trailers, Ronnie suffers another anxiety attack and has to pull over. As he is trying to deal with it, Rae starts feeling the effects of another episode but she is able to overcome it and helps Ronnie out, saying they will be ok.
Black Snake Moan met with positive results from the critics, holding a 66% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. The critical consensus on the site is, “Uninhibited performances, skillful direction, and a killer blues soundtrack elevate Black Snake Moan beyond its outlandish premise.” In the party scene, a guy suggests getting high on Coricidin. The pharmacist in the movie, is the spokesperson in the Coricidin HBP commercials. The same year, Samuel L. Jackson and Christina Ricci co-starred in Home of the Brave (2006), which also starred Justin Timberlake’s wife Jessica Biel. The movie was a box office bomb, only earning $10.9 million off of a $15 million budget.
Well, it wasn’t quite what I expected, which is actually a good thing. This is a slow paced movie but is actually pretty decent. Samuel L Jackson (Lazarus) and Christina Ricci (Rae) did great jobs in their roles and I liked the interaction they had with each other; especially towards the end when they started treating each other as a sort of surrogate family. The story was a little disturbing to be honest, as I feel like it was intentionally made to make people feel uncomfortable. Seeing how it was set in the South, there was a bit of a racial overtone, one which Lazarus commented on when he told R.L. about what would have happened had he gone to the police with Rae when she was beat up. The sexual drama seemed rather over the top, even the times Rae was drugged up. I don’t know if this is going to be one of those cult cinematic movies that will be looked at favorably years later, but I can say that it is at least worth a watch.
Rating: 3 out of 5