Humid and overwrought, with Ricci working at fever pitch and Jackson bringing fire, brimstone and some passable blues licks to the equation, Black Snake Moan is no polite little indie thing, and certainly no formulaic studio exercise.
Because Black Snake Moan asks its characters to confront demons involving sin and sex, it stomps into an area that lives between exploitative movie trash and Southern Gothic literature. It's bold without being especially believable.
Having established his characters and built their bond, having cooked up a sense of place so strong you can taste it, Brewer can't find anywhere in particular to go. Suddenly he brings a gun into the mix, then takes an awkward Dr. Phil turn.
Had the old black man and the young white chick gotten it on, I think some audiences might have exploded. Perhaps sensing this, Black Snake Moan backs off, giving us a neat and clean Hallmark card ending.
In spite of Amelia Vincent's toothsome cinematography and the down-home locations, the movie often has the lumbering, literal-minded rhythms of a second-rate stage play -- not a moan or a howl, but a slow, anxious groan.
[Writer-director Craig Brewer] displays a real passion for the music and a knack for using it to create mood. But it's not enough to overcome the thinness of his characters or the greeting card sentiment that pulls the rug out from what came before.
Depriving a near-naked and recently assaulted stranger of the most basic physical liberty for days on end is a sick, perverse, and cruel thing to do. Black Snake Moan appears to be -- or, worse, pretends to be -- oblivious to that simple fact.
Brewer's reworking of Southern mythologies can sometimes seem condescending, even though his affection for the region's culture is palpable. But there's no denying he knows how to spin a yarn and create vivid, indelible images.
Black Snake Moan strikes me as hogwash. It fundamentally does not work; its consciously far-fetched, out-there notions of the things damaged people do in the name of love are reductive and go only so far.
The picture may look pulpishly provocative, but while Brewer constantly confounded our expectations in Hustle & Flow, this time he barely ruffles our feathers once he establishes his outrageous dime-novel tone.
For God's sake, don't be boring. Alas, after his camera has had its fill of ogling Rae, Brewer turns out to have nothing up his sleeve, nothing in his pants, only a little on his mind and none of it, amazingly, to do with race.