Monday, March 05, 2007

Black Snake Moan


As I sat down to write this morning, I was having trouble coming up with the words to describe just how bad Craig Brewer's new movie is, so I'll just come out and say it: This is, without exaggeration, one of the worst movies I have ever seen.

In case anyone has been living under a rock for the past year, Brewer's movie purports to be about an old blues man (Samuel L. Jackson) who finds a nymphomaniac (Christina Ricci) beaten up and tossed by the side of the road, and then proceeds to chain her to his radiator to "cure" her of her wanton ways.

If this were at all effective as a story, you would think it would be at least slightly offensive or provocative, but not in Brewer's hands. What he tries to turn it into is sudsy fare that is supposed to make us feel good, like a Hallmark movie with Christina Ricci in her underwear. And, while I can say for the record that Ms. Ricci does have very beautiful breasts, that's one of the very few things this movie has going for it.

Instead of crafting a tale that had any originality to it, Brewer borrowed liberally from two other movies "about" the South that I just can't stand: "Driving Miss Daisy" and "Monster's Ball."

As in "Driving Miss Daisy," he picks up the legend of the noble black sage who can rescue the lost white woman. That he would do so here by chaining her to a radiator in her underwear would be offensive if it weren't so silly that you find yourself laughing throughout, at all the wrong moments. I'm not sure what Ricci's Rae was supposed to learn from this ordeal, but all I learned was Craig Brewer has hit his sophomore slump.

And like with "Monster's Ball," rather than craft any real characters, Brewer simply takes whatever societal affliction he can find and throws it into the pot. I guess that's what makes reviewers from other parts of the U.S. say things like this movie "captures the South." Well, as someone who has lived in Georgia for more than 10 years now, I can only tell you that while it might make you feel better about yourselves to think we all live like this, it's a lie that should be stopped now.

Whew. That's a lot of bile for a Monday morning. So, what's good about "Black Snake Moan"? Well, except for Christina Ricci's body, there's Mr. Jackson, who continues to soldier through with solid performances in wretched movies. After watching him trying to save this and the almost-as-bad "Freedomland," I'm officially designating him as the actor most in need of a great movie to match his talents. This, however, definitely isn't it.

Any life that "Black Snake Moan" has comes when Jackson picks up his guitar and plays the blues this flick is supposed to be about. But whereas hip-hop culture saturated "Hustle & Flow" and made it one of my favorite movies, the blues here is just window dressing for Brewer's cornpone tale. Interestingly, one of the few right notes in "Black Snake Moan" comes from the great Mississippi rapper David Banner, who essentially plays himself as a small-time thug.

Ricci's Rae, however, is just a mess, and in none of the ways Brewer may have intended. As she went into the convulsions that supposedly provoke her nymphomania, I can attest that all five people at the showing I was at laughed out loud. It was the only thing funnier than hearing her try to imitate a Southern accent.

So, what did I learn from "Black Snake Moan"? Samuel L. Jackson needs better movies, Christina Ricci is in tremendous shape, and Craig Brewer will live again to make a movie to erase this disaster from my memory.

15 comments:

Elizabeth said...

So, you like small breasts, huh?

There are a lot more good actors than good writers/directors. Sometimes I think: maybe I should write a screenplay. I could take a weekend seminar and probably be able to write something better than a lot of the crap that's out there.

Chris said...

Wow...I feel like we saw two completely different movies! Great review nonetheless, and now I'm looking forward to revisiting the film and seeing if my impression changes. Lord knows Christina Ricci's breasts have been known to sway opinion before.

I have no real knowledge of the South living in New York, but I definitely did NOT come away thinking this was an accurate portrayal of the South. Instead, I took the movie as more of a morale fable, purposefully setting up archetypal characters instead of anything truly fleshed out (Ms. Ricci excluded). What was your opinion (if you had one) of Brewer's Hustle and Flow?

I love dissenting opinions, though, and again stand my my earlier statement: though we disagree on the film, I still think it's a great review.

Now to see Zodiac...

Chris said...

One more quick note - though I didn't mention in my review, I think you're 100% spot on: David Banner gave a great performance.

Reel Fanatic said...

I actually loved Hustle & Flow, Chris ... As a tale of redemption from mean streets, it just works a whole lot better than Black Snake Moan for me, and the music element of Hustle & Flow, with the central role of hip-hop, just worked a lot better than Brewer's attempt to use the blues as a metaphor here

Nell Minow said...

I agree! It was all so overheated, superficial, demeaning, and exploitive. I am stunned by how many good reviews it received. You might want to take a look at what Dana Stevens has to say -- she is one of my favorite critics.

P.S. The worst thing about the box office bonanzas for "Ghost Rider" and "Wild Hogs" is that somewhere out there someone is drawing up deals for sequels. Oh boy.

Reel Fanatic said...

Thanks for the links, Nell .. browsing through the reviews on Rotten Tomatoes and elsewhere, I was also stunned that so many people reviewed it positively

The Funky Bee said...

ha ha, well, like you saw from visiting me I kind of enjoyed this movie. Don't berate me for it. And I do think I semi liked it because I was expecting so little from it. Christina Ricci is too skinny but she does have a beautiful body. If I was dealt that body I wouldn't be sad about it! Samuel L. Jackson played Jules from Pulp Fiction but as a nicer southern man...BUT I do love me some SLJ! I think that may be why I gave this film a chance...

As for Pan's...there aren't enough words for how well this movie was made! thanks for stopping by.

Moviezzz said...

"This is, without exaggeration, one of the worst movies I have ever seen."

Wow, really?

I didn't even think it was the worst I have seen this year. Have you missed NORBIT or BECAUSE I SAID SO? Those are new lows for cinema.

MOAN wasn't that good, but it had its moments. It felt like a good first draft, all the elements were there for a good film, but it needed a lot more work.

Reel Fanatic said...

I certainly won't berate you, Funky Bee ... each person has their own tastes, and I can easily see how people might have liked this one a lot more than I did

As for Norbit and Because I Said So, Moviezzz, I haven't seen those flicks, and until I hit the job lottery and someone pays me to review movies, I won't have to ... You're probably right that at least Norbit was worse than this movie, but hopefully I'll never find out for sure

Philip J. Fry said...

Sorry man couldn't disagree more. I really dug Black Snake Moan. I for one don't think you'll see a more brave performance this year than Ricci's. Jackson as you said was excellent as Lazarus which in medical terms The Lazarus effect is when the heart spontaneously starts beating after resuscitation has failed. This is what this films about. Jackson was dead inside after his wife left him but his music and Rae (Ricci) gave his heart reason to beat. Lazarus gained the child he spoke of always wanting and Rae a father that loved her the way a father is supposed to love a child.

I also find Brewer's voice to be unique and am glad it's available to be heard. Of course the few characters in this film doesn't represent the vast majority of the south but I for one don't see these characters as ugly stereotypes I see them as 3 dimensional well rounded characters and I have lived in South Carolina for 27 years.

The movie is certainly not perfect by any means, it's at least 10 minutes too long but I would definetly rather see films like Black Snake Moan in the theatre instead of the majority of the garbage that has been infesting our local theatres for a coulpe of months now. If for only the scene when Lazarus is singing Black Snake Moan to Rae with his electric guitar which is every bit as powerful as Zeus.

Eaglewing said...

Interesting review and opinions here. Makes me wish I could go see this for myself, but it's not playing around here for another month...

Reel Fanatic said...

You're certainly right that that is the best scene in the movie, Philip, and quite a powerful one .. I knew there would be people who strongly disagreed with my opinion, and your views are very well put

Shannon said...

I find it strangely reassuring to hear your opinion on this film. When I heard the premise I was flabbergasted, and then continued to be so when some reviews were giving it critical acclaim.

Reading this review I have no problem about letting this on pass me by.

Reel Fanatic said...

I really don't think you'll be missing much at all if you do, Shannon ...

Anonymous said...

runescape money runescape gold tibia gold runescape accounts runescape gp buy runescape gold tibia gold tibia money buy runescape money runescape items