Risky movie pays off

It’s risky making a movie about a black man who chains a white woman to his radiator, but writer/director Craig Brewer pulls it off.

Brewer, who made 2005’s indie hit, “Hustle & Flow,” may be one of the riskiest filmmakers working right now. His latest film is about a god-fearing blues player, Lazarus (Samuel L. Jackson) who discovers a young woman, Rae (Christina Ricci) who “someone took the beatin’ to real bad” on the side of the road, and decides he’s the man God intended to cure her of her wicked/sexually promiscuous ways. It’s abundantly clear that Brewer doesn’t cater his subject matter to the masses. All for the better, if you ask me.

“Black Snake Moan” is an over-the-top, heavily stylized portrait of good ol’ fashioned redemption and love. And it’s a fuckin’ great time.

The acting is exceptional from everyone except Justin Timberlake; who appears believable in one instance and unbelievable in the next. Jackson offers a powerhouse performance as Lazarus, a man who will not be moved. Likewise, Ricci continues to add to her already- diverse resume with another peculiar, inspired performance. It’s a hard character to make believable and sympathetic, but Ricci pulls it off.

As a director, Brewer has an inspired touch, with an ability to turn rather ordinary events into something special. As a writer, he has the power to create damaged and alluring characters, coupled with realistic, snappy dialogue. One of his few faults, however, in both “Hustle” and “Black Snake” is a tendency to fall victim to convenient, typical ‘twists’ and ‘reveals.’

The real treat of “Black Snake Moan” is the music. Brewer’s compassion for his roots and the music that comes from them is evident and shines for everyone to see and hear.

It goes without saying it’s been/will be an odd month for movies. Great films like “Zodiac” and this would seem destined for release dates later in the year, and yet they’ve been positioned to open alongside films of very little to no merit. Again, all the better for us.

Danny Gordon may be contacted at d.gordon3@umiami.edu.