Black Snake Moan (film)
Black Snake Moan is a 2006 American drama film written and directed by Craig Brewer, and starring Samuel L. Jackson, Christina Ricci, and Justin Timberlake. The plot focuses on a Mississippi bluesman (Jackson) who holds a troubled local woman (Ricci) captive in his house in an attempt to cure her of her nymphomania after finding her severely beaten on the side of a road.
|Black Snake Moan|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Craig Brewer|
|Written by||Craig Brewer|
|Music by||Scott Bomar|
|Edited by||Billy Fox|
New Deal Productions
Southern Cross the Dog Productions
|Distributed by||Paramount Vantage|
|Box office||$10.9 million|
The film centers on two main characters: Lazarus Redd (Samuel L. Jackson), a deeply religious farmer and former blues guitarist, and Rae Doole (Christina Ricci), a young sex addict. Lazarus' wife and his brother were having an affair, which has left him bitter and angry. Rae's boyfriend Ronnie Morgan (Justin Timberlake) leaves for deployment with the 196th Field Artillery Brigade, Tennessee National Guard, and in his absence, she indulges in bouts of promiscuity and drug use. During one of Rae's binges, Ronnie's friend Gill Morton (Michael Raymond-James) tries to take advantage of her. She laughs at his advances, comparing him unfavorably with another man, and he severely beats her. Believing she's dead, Gill dumps Rae and leaves her by the side of the road wearing only a shirt and panties and drives away.
Lazarus discovers Rae unconscious next to the road the next morning and brings her home to nurse her back to health. Lazarus goes to see Tehronne (David Banner) – the man whom Lazarus thought had beaten her – and learns of her promiscuity. Over the course of several days, Rae, delirious with fever, occasionally wakes up and tries to flee from Lazarus. He chains her to the radiator to keep her from running away. After Rae regains her wits, Lazarus announces that it is his spiritual duty to heal her of her sinful ways and refuses to release her until he does so. Rae makes several attempts to escape, and even briefly has sex with a teenager who helps out on Lazarus' farm.
She eventually comes to tolerate her position. Lazarus buys her a conservative dress to wear, plays the guitar for her, and feeds her home-cooked meals. Lazarus' pastor and close friend, R.L. (John Cothran, Jr.), visits Lazarus at his house and discovers that Lazarus is imprisoning Rae. The pastor tries to reason with Lazarus and the group shares a meal.
Meanwhile, Ronnie returns to town after being discharged from the National Guard due to his severe anxiety disorder. While searching for Rae, who has disappeared, he meets Gill, who informs him that Rae cheats on him whenever he is out of town. Ronnie attacks Gill, steals his truck, and continues searching for Rae.
In the morning, Lazarus frees Rae, having decided that he has no authority to pass judgment on her. Rae chooses to stay with Lazarus of her own will. That night during a thunderstorm, at Rae's request, Lazarus sings a song for her, "Black Snake Moan" by Blind Lemon Jefferson. Later, Rae and Lazarus take a trip into town, where Rae confronts her mother (Kim Richards) about the sexual abuse she suffered at the hands of her mother's partner. Meanwhile, Lazarus has formed a budding romance with the local pharmacist, Angela (S. Epatha Merkerson). He plays a blues concert at a local bar, which Rae attends. Ronnie spots Rae and follows her to Lazarus' house. He confronts the pair with a pistol, but Lazarus talks him down and summons the pastor. Ronnie and Rae decide they are stronger together than apart and get married. While driving away, Ronnie suffers from a panic attack again and Rae begins to have one of her spells, but then they pull themselves together, and resolve to take care of each other.
- Samuel L. Jackson as Lazarus Redd
- Christina Ricci as Rae Doole
- Justin Timberlake as Ronnie Morgan
- John Cothran, Jr. as R.L.
- S. Epatha Merkerson as Angela
- David Banner as Tehronne
- Kim Richards as Sandy Doole
- Son House (archive footage) as Himself
- Neimus K. Williams as Lincoln James
- Michael Raymond-James as Gill Morton
- Adriane Lenox as Rose Woods
- Leonard L. Thomas as Deke Woods
- Jeff Pope as Batson
- Clare Grant as Kell
- Charles "Skip" Pitts as Charlie
For the film, Jackson spent six or seven hours a day for half a year learning how to play the blues guitar for several songs he plays throughout the film. Ricci wore an actual 40-pound (18 kg) chain during filming and ate only foods of no nutritional value to achieve a sickly appearance. She told Entertainment Weekly that she remained scantily clad even when the cameras were not rolling: "Sam [Jackson] would be like, 'Put some clothes on!' I was like, 'No, you don't understand. I'm doing something important.'"
On Rotten Tomatoes the film has an approval rating of 66% based on 157 reviews, with an average rating of 6.4/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "Uninhibited performances, skillful direction, and a killer blues soundtrack elevate Black Snake Moan beyond its outlandish premise." On Metacritic the film has an average score of 52 out of 100, based on 34 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".
On the television program Ebert & Roeper, filmmaker Kevin Smith, filling in for Roger Ebert, described the film as the best of the year thus far. Smith praised Ricci and Jackson, saying this was Ricci's best performance and Jackson's best performance since Pulp Fiction (1994). Richard Roeper also gave the film a "thumb up" rating. Matt Glasby of Film4, however, awarded the film only 1 star out of 5, calling it a "pressure-cooked mess" that was "bad enough to make gums bleed".
In April 2008, Ricci commented on the promotional poster for the film, criticizing it as exploitative of women:
- "The way that movie was marketed was probably one of the most disappointing and upsetting things that's ever happened to me in my career. I have no interest in exploiting women any further than they've already been exploited...All they [marketing bosses] cared about was college-age boys going to see it."
|Black Snake Moan|
|Soundtrack album by |
|Released||January 30, 2007|
|1.||"Opening Theme"||Scott Bomar||0:38|
|2.||"Ain't But One Kind of Blues"||Son House||0:11|
|3.||"Just Like a Bird Without a Feather"||Samuel L. Jackson||2:22|
|4.||"When the Lights Go Out"||The Black Keys||3:13|
|5.||"Standing in My Doorway Crying"||Jessie Mae Hemphill||4:40|
|6.||"Chicken Heads"||Bobby Rush||2:32|
|7.||"Black Snake Moan"||Samuel L. Jackson||4:04|
|8.||"Morning Train"||Precious Bryant||3:00|
|9.||"The Losing Kind"||John Doe||2:33|
|10.||"Lord Have Mercy on Me"||Outrageous Cherry||3:04|
|11.||"Ronnie and Rae's Theme"||Scott Bomar||1:08|
|12.||"The Chain"||Scott Bomar||2:50|
|13.||"Alice Mae"||Samuel L. Jackson||3:48|
|14.||"Stack-o-lee"||Samuel L. Jackson||3:30|
|15.||"Poor Black Mattie"||R. L. Burnside||4:10|
|16.||"That's Where the Blues Started"||Son House||0:21|
|17.||"Mean Ol' Wind Died Down"||North Mississippi Allstars||7:31|
- Critical reviews
Glenn Gaslin at Moving Pictures Magazine briefly reviewed and praised the album: "It should make anyone who loves the blues, er, happy." Chad Grischow at IGN reviewed the album at length, concluding with, "The album does an excellent job at capturing the sweaty underbelly of the southern blues scene, and is a recommended listen, even if not for the reasons you originally picked it up."
On February 16, 2007, Sarah Linn of Sound the Sirens Magazine wrote in her final paragraph,
|“||As a stand-alone album, these 17 tracks are sure to give anybody, blues fan or not, a major taste of what blues music embodies: human struggle. Rootsy and spiritual, down-and-out but hopeful, each track is drunk and steeped on old-time blues, and can be best summed up by the "Father of the Delta Blues," Son House. He says this on the blues: "Sometimes that kind of blues will make you even kill one another … or do anything, that kind of low … that’s where the blues started."||”|
James B. Eldred at Bullz-Eye.com concluded his favorable review with,
Blues fans, indie rockers, and those who worship at the Church of Jackson should pick up this soundtrack. Not only does it prove that one of film’s great hard-asses can sing, it’s also a great introduction to the blues, both classic and modern.
- Commercial rankings
- "BLACK SNAKE MOAN (15)". British Board of Film Classification. October 16, 2006. Retrieved July 8, 2015.
- "BLACK SNAKE MOAN". Box Office Mojo. Amazon.com. Retrieved March 4, 2007.
- "About.com". Samuel L Jackson Talks About "Home of the Brave". Archived from the original on December 30, 2006. Retrieved May 8, 2017.
- "Crave Online". Moaning MF'n Snakes. Archived from the original on February 23, 2007. Retrieved May 8, 2017.
- "The Two-One-Three". Black Snake Moan. Archived from the original on September 28, 2007. Retrieved February 20, 2007.
- "Yahoo Entertainment News". Archived from the original on June 21, 2007. Retrieved February 26, 2007.
- Rottenberg, Josh (February 23, 2007). "Entertainment Weekly".
- "Black Snake Moan". rottentomatoes.com. Retrieved May 29, 2017.
- Black Snake Moan at Metacritic
- "Black Snake Moan Review". Film4. Retrieved May 18, 2007.
- Travers, Peter, (December 19, 2007) "Peter Travers' Best and Worst Movies of 2007" Rolling Stone. Retrieved 2007-12-20
- "Weekend Box Office, March 2–4, 2007". Box Office Mojo. Amazon.com. Retrieved May 18, 2007.
- "Ricci upset by 'Black Snake Moan' marketing". Starpulse. April 19, 2008. Retrieved April 21, 2008.
- "Black Snake Moan". feministing.com. Retrieved May 18, 2007.
- Gaslin, Glenn. "Black Snake Moan Soundtrack". Moving Pictures Magazine. Archived from the original on December 5, 2007. Retrieved November 5, 2007.
- Grischow, Chad (February 28, 2007). "Various Artists - Black Snake Moan Soundtrack". IGN. News Corporation. Archived from the original on October 15, 2007. Retrieved November 5, 2007.
- Linn, Sarah (February 16, 2007). "V/A: Black Snake Moan". Sound the Sirens Magazine. Archived from the original on October 23, 2007. Retrieved November 5, 2007.
- Eldred, James B. "Various Artists: Black Snake Moan Soundtrack". Bullz-Eye.com. Retrieved November 5, 2007.
- "Black Snake Moan [SOUNDTRACK]". Amazon.com. Retrieved May 20, 2008.
- Blackfilm.com, June 2005: BLACK SNAKE MOAN preview: An Interview with Director Craig Brewer (cited 2 September 2006)
- Yahoo Movies, Black Snake Moan (cited 2 September 2006)
- Black Snake Moan at Real Movie News (cited 29 November 2006)