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Lowdown Moan

Posted at 3:05 PM on March 1, 2007 by Euan Kerr

A guy sitting next to me at the screening of "Black Snake Moan" turned to the guy sitting next to him and said "They booed this at Sundance, so that's a good sign!"

Well, possibly.

Craig Brewer's follow-up to "Hustle and Flow" again delves into the fertile ground of American music for a story, this time it's the blues rather than hip-hop. He throws in a handful of Southern gothic influences, some high school Freud, a little old time religion, and comes up with a bit of a mess.

Lazarus (Samuel L. Jackson,) a former blues singer lives alone on his farm trying to mind his own business as he smarts over the way his wife has left him for his brother. One morning he finds a young woman, semi-conscious and half-naked lying on the road outside his house. Her name is Rae, (Christina Ricci) and she's a troubled lass. Not to put too fine a point on it, she deals with any form of tension by leaping on the nearest male.

Laz, who is a devout fellow, wants to help her deal with her issues. He comes up with a plan, involving a radiator, a padlock, and a very heavy chain.

If you have seen the ads for "Moan," and even if you haven't, you quickly get the drift.

Or rather you don't, because after an in-your-face start "Black Snake Moan" loses it's way.
Jackson and Ricci turn in credible performances, as does Justin Timberlake as the real love of Rae's life. The blues music in the film is great. But all these can't set "Moan" free.

This is a problem with the script, which takes off fast, then yanks itself to the ground under the weight of its own chain. The film promises raunch (which it partially delivers,) and teases some very powerful, and uncomfortable issues of sexuality and race, but then lets them slide off into a too neat conclusion.

March 2007
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