In the music business, they say you have your whole life to write your first album ... and six months to write the second. The same goes for film -- after an incendiary feature film debut at Sundance in 2005 with Hustle and Flow, writer-director Craig Brewer returns to the big screen with Black Snake Moan. Like Hustle and Flow, Black Snake Moan has an incredibly simple pitch -- "An older African-American bluesman helps a young white woman deal with her nymphomania. ..." -- and, like Hustle and Flow, Black Snake Moan is about a lot more than what it seems to be about. And yet, Black Snake Moan is a lesser film than Hustle and Flow. It's not that Black Snake Moan is provocatively salacious, but rather that it's poorly structured.
Lazarus (Samuel L. Jackson, looking old and beaten with a mouthful of low-cost dental work) has had better days. His marriage has fallen apart thanks to his wife's affair. He used to play the blues, but now he works a small field in Tennessee and earns spending money from his sales at a local market. Rae (Christina Ricci, whose hair, makeup, wardrobe and demeanor suggest someone on Brewer's production team has seen Elia Kazan's 1956 Southern-sex trash-classic Baby Doll one too many times) is very much in love with her boyfriend Ronnie (Justin Timberlake), but when he leaves to participate in the training for his National Guard posting, Rae's alone. And Rae's not good at being alone. When Ronnie leaves down the driveway, Rae runs after his ride until she collapses in a heap ... and Brewer quick-cuts to Rae bent over a hotel room sink, being used by another man, her hot breath fogging the mirror as she shudders and bucks. Ronnie's been gone for maybe....an hour.