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Friday, March 2, 2007 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Movie Review

"Black Snake Moan" | Moan, groan, leave this clunker alone

Seattle Times movie critic

Movie review 1 stars


Showtimes and trailer

"Black Snake Moan," with Samuel L. Jackson, Christina Ricci, Justin Timberlake, John Cothran, S. Epatha Merkerson. Written and directed by Craig Brewer. 116 minutes. Rated R for strong sexual content, language, some violence and drug use. Several theaters.

"Black Snake Moan," Craig Brewer's turgid follow-up to the pimp drama "Hustle & Flow," is the story of a slut who finds redemption through being chained to a radiator — and yes, it's just about that subtle. It's an exploitation film fraught with faux-sincerity, and ultimately it's utterly ridiculous. Some good actors waste their time wading around in this overlong mess, and some good blues music is squandered.

Christina Ricci, hair tangled and huge eyes staring, plays Rae, the young woman at the movie's center. She's a white-trash Camille, coughing honkingly into her fist while striding around her Southern town in little more than a T-shirt and cowboy boots. And she's insatiable: Barely moments after her boyfriend Ronnie (Justin Timberlake) heads out with the military, she's doing the nasty with another man. As they say about her around town, girl got an itch. And, presumably because such girls need to be punished, we're treated to a rape sequence, after which Rae is dumped onto the side of a road.

Enter Lazarus (Samuel L. Jackson), a blues-loving, God-fearing fellow whose wife has just left him. He decides to help this nymphomaniac waif, and his brand of help includes a 50-foot chain, a metal radiator, a bathtub full of ice and a lot of talk. "God seen fit to put you in my path," he says, "and I'm going to cure your wickedness."

Maybe it's all meant to be funny, but the sight of Ricci's bruised and near-naked body (she's barely clothed for much of the film) didn't make me want to laugh. She howls like a banshee and writhes like the Devil himself is within her; what she never does is create a character, because there isn't one there. The appropriate response to "Black Snake Moan" is indeed a moan, but not the good kind.

Moira Macdonald: 206-464-2725 or mmacdonald@seattletimes.com

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