Yet another Samuel L. Jackson movie containing the word snake in it, but unlike Snakes on a Plane, Black Snake Moan is a dramatic picture delving into dark issues like abuse. I’ll come out by saying that I though this movie was going to be a good laugh, seeing the trailer I though it would be a bearded Sam Jackson shouting out profanities at an unwilling captive in his home. Although this does happen it is a small portion of the movie, and not as comedic as I had supposed.
Black Snake Moan…/i> takes place in a rural part of the American south east, playing out in a small town and its surrounding area, but because the town is small doesn’t mean the problems are. Lazarus (Samuel L. Jackson, Pulp Fiction) is a former blues guitarist turned full time farmer with deep religious beliefs. In the beginning of the picture his wife leaves him for his brother, where a nearly violent rage ensues. Having a hard time dealing with his problems, Lazarus begins singing the blues once again, which at one time apparently had the whole town hopping. Meanwhile Rae (Christina Ricci, Sleepy Hollow) has to say goodbye to her Marine boyfriend Ronnie (Justin Timberlake) who’s about to be shipped over seas. As soon as he leaves she sleeps with a local crack dealer Tehronne (David Banner), attends a party where she sleeps with another patron, later Ronnie’s friend Gill finds her passed out in a field half naked and offers her a ride home. Along the way Gill nearly rapes Rae but instead beats her severely and throws her on the side of the road. The following morning Lazarus discovers her and takes her in, nursing her back to health. But when he learns of her past indiscretions he believes that God has put her on his path and offers her redemption. In other words he chains her to his radiator and offers her counsel on her history of abuse and sexual addiction but instead the two develop a bond and mutually help one and other with their problems.
Contrary to what you might initially perceive this movie to be about, the further and further you watch, the more deep and disturbing of a story it becomes. I had this movie pegged completely wrong after the first 30 minutes, which almost seemed like a soft porn movie, but after Rae came into the hands of Lazarus Black Snake Moan really become a compelling story of abuse, addiction, and rage.
Upon initial reactions Black Snake Moan is overly sexual, but as the story develops despite these perceptions actually becomes interesting and even deep. As well it was nice to see Samuel L. Jackson playing a complicated role; he really got to showcase his talents, something I don’t believe he has been able to do as of late. Also Christina Ricci performed impressively; although I think her nude scenes might cast a shadow over her actual talents I was pleased with her portrayal. Then there was the small role of southern rap star David Banner as Tehronne who may not have been flexing his acting muscle very much by playing a crack dealer, but this small role was rather well cast, as well I was pleasantly surprised by Justin Timberlake’s performance as the anxiety filled Marine, Ronnie.
Although this movie had a lot of great things going for it like the acting, the nice collection of blues music that tied in with the storyline, and just all around interesting characters, it simply wasn’t executed properly. There were too many uninteresting scenes, and in my opinion no real resolution. Still it was better than a lot of films out there, and much more dramatic than the trailer portrayed, I recommend that you check this movie out watch it on a more serious level, getting past the initial feelings of what you might perceive this movie to be.
Presented in a 1080p 2.35:1 aspect ratio and encoded in VC1, Black Snake Moan comes to HD DVD with some spectacular looking results. The look of the south is shown perfectly in this picture, with small and impressive details in nearly every shot. I especially liked the look of Lazarus in this picture; his weathered face was screaming with details, if you had the time you could count ever hair from his beard. As impressive as the detail was, I was truly blown away with the use of colors in Black Snake Moan specifically the color of the south, truly splendid looking. As well as impressive looking scenery this picture boasted some very realistic looking flesh tones, and black levels were solid throughout as well.
On the other side of the spectrum I did notice a few grainy scenes, more occasional in the low lit scenes, accompanied by some soft shots. But aside from that this transfer was highly impressive and I enjoyed its look thoroughly.
Paramount has included a Dolby Digital Plus audio track which sounds very nice especially when regarding the blues soundtrack, which will really utilize your rear speakers and sub woofer nicely. Surprisingly the dialogue blended very nice with blues music, and I found there were no balancing issues. For a dialogue driven movie the track is very active, with many subtle effects coming through the real channel, from birds chirping to background noises coming from other characters and objects.
The major thing that disappointed my about this audio track was the lack of TrueHD, as good as the Dolby Plus track sounded, this is one track that would have definitely benefited in an uncompressed form, even so I was still very impressed with the sound of Black Snake Moan.
There is quite a nice bunch of features included on this disc, they are pretty much all worth checking out, especially for fans of the movie.
- Audio Commentary – Commentary with writer/director Craig Brewer.
- Conflicted: The Making of Black Snake Moan – A 28 minute look into making the picture, interviews with everyone from the composer to the producer. As well as production notes and other interesting facts there is some back stories on the actors in the movie, and how the film came together, actually a pretty interesting watch.
- Rooted in the Blues – An in depth look into the soundtrack of the picture, 12 ½ minutes long.
- The Black Snake Moan – A look into the title song of the same name, the efforts behind creating it and bringing it onto the big screen, 9 minutes long.
- Deleted Scenes – 5 deleted scenes each with optional commentary, none pertinent to the development of the storyline but still worth wile checking out.
The film itself was pretty good if you look past its initial sex driven aspects, and into the story itself. Still it won’t be for everyone and I do recommend caution when considering checking it out, definitely rent it before you consider purchasing it. But if you already know you like to movie you will be happy to hear that it looks and sounds nearly flawless and has a rather decent set of special features, making it a must buy for fans.
Special Features List
- Commentary with writer/director Craig Brewer
- Conflicted: The Making of Black Snake Moan
- Rooted in the Blues
- The Black Snake Moan
- Deleted Scenes