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Black Snake Moan

Starring Samuel L. Jackson, Christina Ricci, Justin Timberlake, S. Epatha Merkerson, John Cothran Jr., Michael Raymond-James, David Banner, Adriane Lenox
Written and Directed by Craig Brewer

IN SHORT: Recommended. [Rated R for strong sexual content, language, some violence and drug use. 116 minutes]

Somewhere in the outer Rural Boondocks lies a small town where, as Black Snake Moan begins, two relationships come undone. The first is the decade plus marriage of Lazarus (Samuel L Jackson) and Rose. Lazarus used to sing the blues but settled for farming beans and getting religion courtesy Rose. It was a tough life and Rose is just worn out. Exit stage left.

On the other side of town, Rae (Christina Ricci) bids goodbye to her soldier boy, Ronnie (Justin Timberlake). The two strap on identical watches set to ring an alarm at the same time so that, even with thousands of miles between them, that buzzing noise will force them to think about each other at least once a day. Kind of romantic, dontcha think?

Soldier boy gone, Rae goes bananas, jumping the bones of any man who would have her. Such generosity is evnetually rewarded by a local louse who beaths the crap out of her and leaves her for dead on the side of the road. That's where Lazarus finds her. He focusses his grief and emotional energies on the beat up brat. Once awake, Rae offers "payment" for t he rescue but Lazarus has other plans. He aims to steer Rae to the staright and narrow path; teach her to toe the line and essentialy play Henry Higgins to her Eliza Dolittle. Yes, that's a reference stretched to the breaking point but it's an apt one. Higgins put his charge through hell, too. Rae's hell is a 40 foot length of chain, one end around her waist and the other well secured. It is not an omen of anything to come. Rae just needs control. Lazarus helps Rae and, in turn, the Universe so-to-speak brings another woman into his life, a local pharmacist called Angela (S. Epatha Merkerson). And Ronnie will return as wel but we won't give you any of those details because the performances are too good.

Simply, what could have been a decent "2 persons in one room" stage play becomes something altogether different. In the hands of lesser actors, you'd be aware of watching the acting process work and the film would fail. We didn't have that problem with Black Snake Moan -- a kinda blues that, instead of music, plays out emotionally on screen. Rae externalizes her pain. Lazarus internalizes it and though I'm writing like a film student would, the performances are so good you won't see the "acting".

On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Ten Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to Black Snake Moan, he would have paid


Think of Back Snake Moan as rural rehab and then let yourself get lost in the story.

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