Black Snake Moan (film)

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Black Snake Moan
Theatrical release poster
Directed byCraig Brewer
Written byCraig Brewer
Produced by
CinematographyAmy Vincent
Edited byBilly Fox
Music byScott Bomar
New Deal Productions
Southern Cross the Dog Productions
Distributed byParamount Vantage
Release dates
  • December 9, 2006 (2006-12-09) (Butt-Numb-A-Thon)
  • March 2, 2007 (2007-03-02) (United States)
Running time
116 minutes[1]
CountryUnited States
Budget$15 million[2]
Box office$10.9 million[2]

Black Snake Moan is a 2006 American film written and directed by Craig Brewer and starring Samuel L. Jackson, Christina Ricci, and Justin Timberlake. The film focuses on a Mississippi bluesman who holds a troubled local woman captive in his house in an attempt to cure her of nymphomania after finding her severely beaten on the side of a road. The title of the film derives from the 1927 Blind Lemon Jefferson song. The film draws numerous references to the Mississippi Blues movement, particularly in its title and soundtrack. Black Snake Moan garnered mixed to positive reviews from critics, and was a box-office bomb, grossing only $10.9 million against a $15 million budget.


The film centers on two main characters: Lazarus Redd, a deeply religious farmer and former blues guitarist, and Rae Doole, a young sex addict. Lazarus' wife and his brother were having an affair, which has left him bitter and angry. Rae's boyfriend Ronnie Morgan leaves for deployment with the 196th Field Artillery Brigade, Tennessee National Guard, and in his absence, she indulges in bouts of promiscuity and drug use. During one of Rae's binges, Ronnie's friend Gill Morton tries to take advantage of her. She laughs at his advances, comparing him unfavorably with another man, and he severely beats her. Believing she's dead, Gill dumps Rae and leaves her by the side of the road wearing only a shirt and underwear and drives away.

Lazarus discovers Rae unconscious next to the road the next morning and brings her home to nurse her back to health. Lazarus goes to see Tehronne – the man who Lazarus thought had beaten her – and learns of her promiscuity. Over the course of several days, Rae, delirious with fever, occasionally wakes up and tries to flee from Lazarus. He chains her to the radiator to keep her from running away. After Rae regains her wits, Lazarus announces that it is his spiritual duty to heal her of her sinful ways and refuses to release her until he does so. Rae makes several attempts to escape, and even briefly has sex with a teenager who helps out on Lazarus' farm.

She eventually comes to tolerate her position. Lazarus buys her a conservative dress to wear, plays the guitar for her, and feeds her home-cooked meals. Lazarus' pastor and close friend, R.L., visits Lazarus at his house and discovers that Lazarus is imprisoning Rae. The pastor tries to reason with Lazarus and the group shares a meal.

Meanwhile, Ronnie returns to town after being discharged from the National Guard due to his severe anxiety disorder. While searching for Rae, who has disappeared, he meets Gill, who informs him that Rae cheats on him whenever he is out of town. Ronnie attacks Gill, steals his truck, and continues searching for Rae.

In the morning, Lazarus frees Rae, having decided that he has no authority to pass judgment on her. Rae chooses to stay with Lazarus of her own will. That night during a thunderstorm, at Rae's request, Lazarus sings a song for her, "Black Snake Moan" by Blind Lemon Jefferson. Later, Rae and Lazarus take a trip into town, where Rae confronts her mother about the sexual abuse she suffered at the hands of her mother's partner. Meanwhile, Lazarus has formed a budding romance with the local pharmacist, Angela. He plays a blues concert at a local bar, which Rae attends. Ronnie spots Rae and follows her to Lazarus' house. He confronts the pair with a pistol, but Lazarus talks him down and summons the pastor. Ronnie and Rae decide they are stronger together than apart and get married. While driving away, Ronnie suffers from a panic attack again and Rae begins to have one of her spells, but then they pull themselves together, and resolve to take care of each other.



For the film, Jackson spent six or seven hours a day for half a year learning how to play the blues guitar for several songs he plays throughout the film.[3][4] Ricci wore an actual 40-pound (18 kg) chain during filming[5] and ate only foods of no nutritional value to achieve a sickly appearance.[6] She told Entertainment Weekly that she remained scantily clad even when the cameras were not rolling: "Sam [Jackson] would be like, 'Put some clothes on!' I was like, 'No, you don't understand. I'm doing something important.'"[7]

Christina Ricci said the rough sex scenes were painful, partly because one of her fellow cast members, rap producer David Banner, had no previous acting experience. In one scene with Banner, Ricci said: "I was being hurt. It kind of felt like being raped. It was hard. I felt terrible, but it wasn't Dave's fault at all."[8]


Critical response[edit]

On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has a 66% approval rating based on 164 reviews, with an average score of 6.4/10. The website's critical consensus reads, "Uninhibited performances, skillful direction, and a killer blues soundtrack elevate Black Snake Moan beyond its outlandish premise."[9] On Metacritic, the film has an average score of 52 out of 100, based on 34 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".[10]

On the television program Ebert & Roeper, filmmaker Kevin Smith, filling in for Roger Ebert, described the film as the best of the year thus far. Smith praised Ricci and Jackson, saying this was Ricci's best performance and Jackson's best performance since Pulp Fiction (1994). Richard Roeper also gave the film a "thumb up" rating. Matt Glasby of Film4, however, awarded the film only 1 star out of 5, calling it a "pressure-cooked mess" that was "bad enough to make gums bleed".[11]

Rolling Stone's Peter Travers declared the film the year's Worst Soft-Core Sex on his list of the Worst Movies of 2007.[12]

Box office[edit]

During its March 2–4, 2007 opening weekend in the US the film earned $4 million, putting it in eighth place behind films including other new releases Wild Hogs and Zodiac.[2][13]


In April 2008, Ricci commented on the promotional poster for the film, criticizing it as exploitative of women:

The way that movie was marketed was probably one of the most disappointing and upsetting things that's ever happened to me in my career. I have no interest in exploiting women any further than they've already been exploited...All they [marketing bosses] cared about was college-age boys going to see it.[14]

Feministing criticized the film's marketing for its portrayal of sexualized violence.[15]


Black Snake Moan
Soundtrack album by
ReleasedJanuary 30, 2007
LabelNew West

Black Snake Moan was released January 30, 2007 by New West Records featuring various artists including four tracks performed by Jackson himself. The 17 tracks cover classic to modern blues.

1."Opening Theme"Scott Bomar0:38
2."Ain't But One Kind of Blues"Son House0:11
3."Just Like a Bird Without a Feather"Samuel L. Jackson2:22
4."When the Lights Go Out"The Black Keys3:13
5."Standing in My Doorway Crying"Jessie Mae Hemphill4:40
6."Chicken Heads"Bobby Rush2:32
7."Black Snake Moan"Samuel L. Jackson4:04
8."Morning Train"Precious Bryant3:00
9."The Losing Kind"John Doe2:33
10."Lord Have Mercy on Me"Outrageous Cherry3:04
11."Ronnie and Rae's Theme"Scott Bomar1:08
12."The Chain"Scott Bomar2:50
13."Alice Mae"Samuel L. Jackson3:48
14."Stack-o-lee"Samuel L. Jackson3:30
15."Poor Black Mattie"R. L. Burnside4:10
16."That's Where the Blues Started"Son House0:21
17."Mean Ol' Wind Died Down"North Mississippi Allstars7:31

Critical reviews[edit]

Glenn Gaslin at Moving Pictures Magazine briefly reviewed and praised the album: "It should make anyone who loves the blues, er, happy."[16] Chad Grischow at IGN reviewed the album at length, concluding with, "The album does an excellent job at capturing the sweaty underbelly of the southern blues scene, and is a recommended listen, even if not for the reasons you originally picked it up."[17]

On February 16, 2007, Sarah Linn of Sound the Sirens Magazine wrote in her final paragraph,[18]

As a stand-alone album, these 17 tracks are sure to give anybody, blues fan or not, a major taste of what blues music embodies: human struggle. Rootsy and spiritual, down-and-out but hopeful, each track is drunk and steeped on old-time blues, and can be best summed up by the "Father of the Delta Blues," Son House. He says this on the blues: "Sometimes that kind of blues will make you even kill one another … or do anything, that kind of low … that’s where the blues started."

James B. Eldred at concluded his favorable review with,[19]

Blues fans, indie rockers, and those who worship at the Church of Jackson should pick up this soundtrack. Not only does it prove that one of film’s great hard-asses can sing, it’s also a great introduction to the blues, both classic and modern.


  1. ^ "Black Snake Moan". British Board of Film Classification. October 16, 2006. Retrieved July 8, 2015.
  2. ^ a b c "Black Snake Moan". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved March 4, 2007.
  3. ^ "Samuel L Jackson Talks About "Home of the Brave"". December 12, 2006. Archived from the original on December 30, 2006. Retrieved May 8, 2017.
  4. ^ "Moaning MF'n Snakes". Crave Online. February 20, 2007. Archived from the original on February 23, 2007. Retrieved May 8, 2017.
  5. ^ "Black Snake Moan". The 213. 2007. Archived from the original on September 28, 2007. Retrieved February 20, 2007.
  6. ^ "Christina Ricci's sugary diet for Snake Black Moan". Yahoo Entertainment News. February 23, 2007. Archived from the original on June 21, 2007. Retrieved February 26, 2007.
  7. ^ Rottenberg, Josh (February 23, 2007). "Spotlight on Christina Ricci". Entertainment Weekly. Time Inc. Archived from the original on January 21, 2021. Retrieved June 4, 2022.
  8. ^ Abcarian, Robin (January 22, 2007). "A tale of sex and salvation". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on July 28, 2020. Retrieved January 29, 2022.
  9. ^ "Black Snake Moan". Rotten Tomatoes. Archived from the original on February 3, 2022. Retrieved October 5, 2021.
  10. ^ "Black Snake Moan Reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Archived from the original on February 3, 2022. Retrieved June 4, 2022.
  11. ^ "Black Snake Moan Review". 2007. Archived from the original on October 13, 2007. Retrieved May 18, 2007.
  12. ^ Travers, Peter (December 19, 2007). "The Best and Worst Movies of 2007". Rolling Stone. Archived from the original on February 16, 2021. Retrieved June 4, 2022.
  13. ^ "Weekend Box Office, March 2–4, 2007". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved May 18, 2007.
  14. ^ "Ricci upset by 'Black Snake Moan' marketing". April 19, 2008. Archived from the original on April 21, 2008. Retrieved April 21, 2008.
  15. ^ "Oh baby, it's so sexy when you chain me to the radiator". February 27, 2007. Retrieved May 18, 2007.
  16. ^ Gaslin, Glenn. "Black Snake Moan Soundtrack". Moving Pictures Magazine. Archived from the original on December 5, 2007. Retrieved November 5, 2007.
  17. ^ Grischow, Chad (February 28, 2007). "Various Artists - Black Snake Moan Soundtrack". IGN. News Corporation. Archived from the original on October 15, 2007. Retrieved November 5, 2007.
  18. ^ Linn, Sarah (February 16, 2007). "V/A: Black Snake Moan". Sound the Sirens Magazine. Archived from the original on October 23, 2007. Retrieved November 5, 2007.
  19. ^ Eldred, James B. "Various Artists: Black Snake Moan Soundtrack". Retrieved November 5, 2007.


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